The Next Educational Path

How Pathway at UCLA Extension prepares its students for adulthood

Nick Telleria, 22, wanted to go to college his whole life. He first heard about Pathway at UCLA Extension in high school and then again while he was in an adult education program. Eventually, Telleria decided to go through the interview process for Pathway, and he was surprised when he got into the program he had heard about so long ago.

“Me and my mom came for a tour and then we did the interviewing process -- and then, I mean I wasn't expecting to get in. So then I was pretty shocked when I heard I got in,” said Telleria, a first-year student in Pathway.

Telleria hopes to use his education and experience at Pathway to become a sports manager and eventually a high school coach.

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For Telleria and his classmates, this is not a regular college program. At Pathway, young adults who have intellectual and other developmental disabilities are able to learn in an inclusive college environment that is specifically designed for them. Students receive a UCLA Extension sequential certificate in learning and life skills after they successfully complete the 83-unit requirement of the two-year program.

Within the requirements are a combination of internship experience and regular course work. In the first year, the schedules for each student are for the most part planned for them with all of their core classes. By the second year, students have more control over their schedules. Throughout both years, students have internships to give them real-world experience similar to other college students.

Pathway at UCLA Extension is one of 17 higher learning programs in California for people with special needs, according to Think College, an organization that provides higher education resources for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Before being placed in their internships and throughout the program, students take career development courses through a company called PathPoint that teaches them things like how to build a resume, write a cover letter and react to problems that might occur in the workplace.

“I think that everyone should be taking career development whether you have an intellectual disability or not. It's hard to find a job and to find a job that you want,” said Lyric Buckner, career development teacher from PathPoint. “So it's just like all of the fundamental skills that Pathway provides for these students. I think it’s very important because it's setting them up for success.”

Besides academic and vocational skills, Pathway is centered on making sure the students feel that they are getting the full college experience.

Program Manager Brooke Nakagawa said that Pathway encourages students to go outside the opportunities presented by the program, which has helped the students feel more welcomed on campus.

“The whole point of the program is to encourage our students to go out there and form their own friendships and practice what they’re learning here in terms of their social skills, their communication skills, their ability to think critically and on the spot in any type of situation that might happen in real life,” said Nakagawa.

Second-year student Leslie Salines, 20, has gotten involved on campus through sports.

“I actually do unified basketball. It's fun and we get to meet new teams. This year we have six teams,” she said.

After completing the program, Salines said, she wants to get a job as a teacher in early education.

Pathway not only provides an inclusive college experience for its students, but it also helps with their transition to independent living.

Students who choose to live in the off-campus apartments are provided with independent living services through a partnership that Pathway has with Level Up Solutions. The company teaches the students skills such as cooking, grocery shopping and money management.

Pathway at UCLA Extension was founded in 2006, and will honor its first 10 years of “building paths to bright futures” with a celebration in June.

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