February 19, 2019 08:19 PM
Bethel University is the only college in Minnesota with an inclusive learning and development program for special needs students that also offers on-campus living. It's known as BUILD.
For one local teen, his acceptance into the program was captured on camera by his mom and has thousands of views online.
It's a moment of pure joy-- an accomplishment 18-year-old Sean Sieleni has worked hard for. With his family surrounding him, the emotion is overwhelming.
"It feels amazing to get in," Sieleni said.
Sieleni has down syndrome and will enter Bethel University's BUILD program this fall. The program features a two-year study for students with intellectual disabilities that focuses on everything from academics to social learning.
"It's going to be happiness. I'm going to go to college, and that's my dream to go to college," he added.
Sieleni will take classes like intro to psychology with other non-BUILD students and will also get to live on campus.
"We want their college expereince to be integrated in with the other students here at Bethel," said Dawn Allen, the director of the BUILD program.
Now in its fourth year, there are currently 25 students in the program, but many more have inquired.
"This year we had 86 people inquire about the program, 41 filled out the entire application and from that, we are selecting just 16 students to start with us next year," Allen said.
Leslie Sieleni, Sean's mother, says more colleges should offer programs like Bethel's.
"I truly do believe that having children educated under the general education setting is more valuable. They learn so much more and they are competent and capable," she said.
Sean's emotional video already has nearly 50,000 views in just a couple of days.
His family hopes it raises awareness to provide more options for students like Sean.
"He has always been educated in this inclusive environment with other neuro-typical friends, and I can guarantee his life would not be what it is if he was not given that opportunity," his mom said.
Students graduate from the two-year program with an applied studies certificate.
There are two other colleges that offer similar programs-- Brainerd and Willmar-- but neither offers the on-campus living option.
Updated: February 19, 2019 08:19 PM
Created: February 19, 2019 05:18 PM
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