Clemson University’s commencement exercises Friday sent nearly 3,000 new Tiger alums into the world. The last three students to cross the Littlejohn Coliseum stage at the afternoon session got the loudest cheers of all. Kelsi Dungan, Wade Ward and David Saville were the first students from the ClemsonLIFE (Learning is for Everyone) program to participate in graduation ceremonies. The two-year program helps learning disabled people to develop the skills they need for independent living. It’s a mix of academics, workforce training and other social skills taught on the university’s campus. Students who complete the program receive a certificate of postsecondary education. The program held its own ceremony last week, according to university spokeswoman Robin Denny. Dungan, 25, was born into a family of Clemson University football fans in Jackson, Mississippi. She admits that learning how to live on her own has been tough; however, she won’t have to worry about that immediately since she’ll stay with her father and apply for a job at her local YMCA. Saville, 25, will resume his role with the Tigers this fall. In the meantime, he plans to keep his job at the Clemson Ingles and work on his independent living skills. Ward, 21, is going off into the world after his Clemson graduation. He admitted LIFE wasn’t easy — “Keeping a budget was the hardest thing” — but the Simpsonville native said he would definitely recommend LIFE to anyone. Read more.
Overcoming obstacles his whole life, Smithville High School graduate DJ Lancaster is all smiles after being accepted into a coveted spot at Clemson University’s ClemsonLIFE program in the upcoming fall semester. Accepting only 10 new students each year, the program teaches mentally challenged students how to live independently in their two-year program. For Lancaster, it’s a move that takes him over a thousand miles and six states away from the only home he’s ever known. “I’m excited,” Lancaster said, talking about his four-year dream to attend college. “It’s going to be a new experience for me.” Read more.
For Rion Holcombe, it has been an exciting year. He has become a Clemson student, something he and his family hoped would happen. The moment of his acceptance to the ClemsonLIFE program was captured on home video. It featured Rion and his father, who asked, "What's that first word right there? It says... congratulations." Rion, who has Down Syndrome, responded, "I got accepted?" It was a short video that went viral, with nearly two million views so far. That video was taken in December of 2013. Just over a year later, Rion Holcombe is a full-time student at Clemson. He lives in an apartment with three roommates, takes a full load of classes, and has a job. The ClemsonLIFE program teaches students with intellectual disabilities more than the traditional reading and math. It also includes life skills and social skills. His mother, Susan Holcombe, explained, "He has to watch the time to be ready. He has to keep up with his own schedule because before we would wake him up in the morning, now he sets his alarm clock and gets himself up and ready and out." Read more.
ClemsonLIFE student David Saville was featured in in Clemson World Magazine: "If you’ve attended football games, you may have seen student equipment manager David Saville on the sidelines. Saville, who has Down Syndrome, hit the national spotlight this past year when he was featured in ESPN commentator Holly Rowe’s “Front Rowe” series as well as being a keynote speaker at the National Down Syndrome Congress Convention." Read the article.
Like many soon-to-be college freshmen, Rion Holcombe and Megan Pehling can’t wait for next football season. When the Clemson University Tigers take the field in Death Valley, there will be two new faces in the sea of orange and two new voices screaming cheers from the student section. Holcombe and Pehling are looking forward to the simple revelry of college life because it represents a normal part of young adulthood they never thought they’d achieve. Read more.
An inspiring story about Clemson Football Equipment Manager, David Saville. Read more.
Members of the ClemsonLIFE (Learning is for Everyone) Program enjoyed a field-trip of sorts Tuesday afternoon. Students in the program were invited to Clemson football practice by head coach Dabo Swinney. The ClemsonLIFE program has enjoyed immense success over the years as it provides students with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to reside on a college campus and learn to be independent by teaching functional academics, independent living, employment and social/leisure skills. ClemsonLIFE student David Saville is working as a student equipment manager for the football team, and on Tuesday, his classmates had the chance to watch him at work. Read more and watch the video.
The ClemsonLIFE (Learning is for Everyone) program will have additional growth opportunities thanks to a $100,000 gift from Clemson alumnus Bob Stanzione and his wife, Kaye. The Stanziones also offered to give an additional $100,000 in matching funds to encourage financial support for the program. “We believe that ClemsonLIFE is a life-changing initiative and we are honored to participate in this way,” Bob Stanzione said. “We hope our gift will inspire others to support the students in this wonderful program, and we have committed to match the next $100,000 that is donated to ClemsonLIFE.” Students supported by the Stanziones’ gift will be known as Monarch Scholars as a tribute to both family and ClemsonLIFE students, according to Kaye Stanzione. Read more.
From CBS Evening News, “On the Road,” Steve Hartman catches up with Rion Holcombe, who despite having Down syndrome, is on his way to college. Watch the video.
There is no doubt that Steele Divitto’s loyalties reside at Boston College, a team that that he gives his all for on college football Saturdays in the fall. But for the past two seasons, a large piece of Divitto’s heart has also resided in Clemson, where his older sister Collette is part of the ClemsonLIFE program. Read more.
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