Project F.O.C.U.S. is a comprehensive post-secondary education (PSE) program for college aged students (18 years and older) with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities, including young adults with Autism. In order to fulfill the project’s mission statement, FOCUS. will provide an inclusive, accessible, and productive career education program by incorporating evidence-based research and positive behavior supports that will promote self-determination, community partnerships, and job readiness skills in order to prepare individuals with Intellectual Disabilities for competitive paid employment in the INCLUSIVE community setting.
UNLV’s Project F.O.C.U.S. will address the need to support individuals with Intellectual/Developmental Disability in the Las Vegas Valley and local communities by providing a post-secondary education program that focuses on inclusive academics, employment, and independent living.
Participants of FOCUS will be able to participate in inclusive college courses based on their individual interests. These classes may pertain directly to their future career or they may be courses that can be taken as electives.
To support individualized academics, the project will:
Use person-centered planning to design individualized programs of studies based on each individual’s interests, preferences, and needed supports.
Use person-centered planning to develop an individualized program of study that is related to the employment goals of the FOCUS participant.
Build interdisciplinary partnerships within the UNLV campus community that will support the individual interests of each FOCUS participant.
Provide a certificate of completion that is recognized in the local community.
Similar to academics, participants of FOCUS will be provided with support to find and experience a career that is of interest.
To support inclusive employment, the project will:
Develop individualized job training and self-advocacy skills for project participants to find meaningful and person-centered competitive employment in the community.
Establish community and campus partnerships that will provide internships, employment opportunities or training, and/or competitive wages.
Establish national, state, and local agency supports that can provide ongoing job coaching services if necessary.
Provide scaffolds of support through FOCUS volunteers in order to develop independence of desired employment.
Independent living skills will be addressed during the duration of each student’s program. These skills will be based on each participant’s needs, will be planned accordingly, and will be taught in a natural and inclusive environment.
To support individualized independent living, the project will:
Continue to develop age-appropriate academic, functional, and social skills by promoting self-determination skills through participation of inclusive academic and campus opportunities.
Continue to informally develop functional independent living skills needed for each individual’s environment through person-centered planning.
Continue to develop functional independent living skills through inclusive continuing education courses.
Support components of independent living, as needed, through FOCUS volunteers and inclusive functional activities.
Those interested in applying for the FOCUS program are encouraged to call or email us to set up a time to meet. Because the program is entirely person-centered, we feel it is best to meet with families and individuals before beginning the application process.
FOCUS strives to take into account the personal and career interests of each participant and provide them with a course of study that is modeled after traditional two-year certificate programs. Within each program, courses and essential experiences are built into the certificate requirements. The courses and experiences that are chosen reflect not only the course of study the student chooses, but their personal interests. Efforts are made to have these align with the independent living and career goals of each student. To ensure a fully inclusive environment, these courses are selected from those offered in the general course catalog at UNLV.
To make these programs of study individualized for each student, person centered planning is used to create each student's program. Person centered planning is an individualized planning process used to create collaborative and goal-oriented plans for individuals. Additionally, it is a way to promote students’ self determination and involvement in the planning and decision making processes. FOCUS aims to use the tenants of person centered planning to ensure that participants are ready to participate in all aspects of their communities as independent adults. It is a priority of the project to prepare students with the tools and knowledge necessary to discuss their strengths, needs, goals, disability, and to advocate for needed support in the various environments they will navigate as adults.
The job market of the 21st century has become increasingly competitive, with employment outcomes often favoring individuals with higher levels of education, job training, and previous work experience. With many current occupations requiring specialized sets of skills and previous training for entry level positions, postsecondary education has become an essential pillar in the modern market. Over the next decade, postsecondary education represents a great opportunity for individuals with disabilities to bridge the gap in employment they currently face when compared to their peers without disabilities, as many of the occupations projected to grow in the next decade require some form of postsecondary training.
To aid individuals with intellectual/developmental disability in the pursuit of gainful employment, FOCUS utilizes postsecondary education to provide fully inclusive programs of study, structured job internships, and person centered planning, culminating in an Occupational and Career Life Studies Certificate (OCLSC). OCLSCs are designed to meet the person centered values of each student and each certificate path will be individualized based on individual experiences, supports, and needs. The OCLSC will provide an individualized academic and work experience curriculum based on each student’s career choice to help them in the pursuit of preferred independent employment.
An Occupational and Career for Life Studies Certificate (OCLSC) will be awarded upon completion of the two-year 42 credit program. The OCLSC is designed to meet the person centered values of each participant.
The OCLSC allows all students to participate in the general core classes, job track experiences, and supervised work studies. This certificate is offered through collaboration with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) and the UNLV Department of Continuing Education.
Students that attend college as freshmen often experience difficulties transitioning from the demands and structure of secondary school to the independence and self-determination required in college. To ease this transition for students enrolled in Project F.O.C.U.S., students have access to mentors and tutors provided by the project, while also having access to traditional university services such as the Academic Success Center, Writing Center, and Disability Resource Center (DRC) located on campus.
While support is provided for individuals participating in the project, it is a goal that while enrolled in the program,each student independently navigate the campus, attend courses, participate in campus functions, and seek out necessary support provided on campus or through the project.
Inclusion in the college environment extends beyond enrollment in courses.
In fact, most of a typical college student's college experience takes place outside of the classroom and in social contexts. Because FOCUS aims to provide the most inclusionary and typical college experience possible, a major priority is to have students involved as active and social members of the campus community.
This includes participation in student organizations, membership in clubs, exploration of the community surrounding the campus, attendance at school sporting events, and participating in the student community on campus.
Support Project F.O.C.U.S.
In order to support our students, FOCUS is always looking for volunteers. Our volunteers play an integral part in the FOCUS program because they provide students with even more inclusive opportunities to socialize and interact with the UNLV community. Volunteers will help to create positive experiences for FOCUS students through hanging out around campus and attending various social events. This experience is recommended for all those interested in working with students with disabilities, but particularly those currently enrolled in related service programs.
If you’d like to become a volunteer, please fill out the application below.