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Campus Life Lessons
University Program Eases Student Transition

The years immediately after high school are as important as they are memorable. For University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) senior Mandy Drake, and virtually any other student on campus, college is a time for learning—both inside the classroom as well as outside. From figuring out appropriate study habits, to learning to be on your own and making new friendships, there are valuable lessons every day.

For Drake and 26 other UMSL students, the SUCCEED program helps to serve as a guide through the years immediately after high school.

SUCCEED is a post-secondary program offered at UMSL for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are transitioning from high school into their next stage in life. The program offers participants the opportunity to earn a Chancellor’s Certificate by completing the two-year residential program, and offers an individualized approach to career development or transition toward degree-seeking programs.

The students participating in SUCCEED this year will focus on five main outcomes from the program:

  • Financial independence
  • Increased personal development
  • Independent living
  • Community participation
  • Access to resources

“The program helps you learn independence and experience college life,” Drake said. “I really enjoy being away from home, doing my own thing and getting to know friends.”

Program director Grace Francis emphasized how well the program has already been integrated into the UMSL campus after just two years. “It’s a really genuine and robust interdisciplinary partnership,” she said. “UMSL contributes to the life of our program and nurtures it. And we have a reciprocal relationship—we’re contributing to the lives of other programs here on campus.”

As evidence, Francis says, SUCCEED students have been asked to help redesign the structure of some classes on campus, and find ways to make them a better fit for all students.

The strong academic component of the program includes tutoring sessions for SUCCEED students. “Homework help is a big help to me,” Drake said.

“Our students are UMSL students first,” Francis said. “So they have access to all the tools on campus, plus the tools SUCCEED has.”

Because it is such an individualized program, SUCCEED students can get help in every single class they take. “It really helps you learn independently,” Drake said.

Outside of the classroom, building positive relationships and self-worth, community participation, time management, physical health and self-care are just a few the program addresses, according to Francis.

“The program helps with a lot of creative ways to enjoy your life to the fullest of your dreams,” said Erin Jacobson, a freshman in the program.

The program is continuing to grow, said Francis. With a strong advisory committee that includes several UMSL administrators, residential life representatives, SSD staff members and other community figures, SUCCEED works closely with students’ families to best learn how to guide them during the transition time after high school

“Just like all the students here, transition is scary and difficult,” Francis said of students in the SUCCEED program. “But our students acclimate well and mix in.”

arrow icon For more information on the SUCCEED program at UMSL, including information on how to apply for the program, scholarships, fees and eligibility, visit
Mandy Drake
Mandy Drake

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Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) is a leader in providing special education services to students with disabilities and also provides a wide range of career and technical education programs.
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