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DIDD awards Tennessee Believes Grants to four higher education institutions

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The Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) announced on January 14 that it will award the first Tennessee Believes grant funding to four higher education institutions across the state. 

Tennessee State University and Dyersburg State Community College will receive funding to create two new inclusive programs for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities on their respective campuses.  Funding was also awarded to Next Steps at Vanderbilt University and the FUTURE Program at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville to create new opportunities for students.

“These higher education institutions demonstrated innovation and enthusiasm for providing increased opportunities for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities across the state,” DIDD Commissioner Brad Turner said. “I’m excited to see firsthand how students will adapt to campus life while preparing for independence and employment.”

DIDD received $500,000 from the Governor and Tennessee General Assembly to launch the program.  The department will provide multi-year grants up to three years to selected colleges and universities as requested in their applications.

The awards are as follows:

  • Tennessee State University: $284,000 over two years to create a new program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  The TigerEDGE Program is targeting enrollment of 8 students in Fall 2022 and will be the first public institution in Middle Tennessee to offer an inclusive higher education program.
  • Dyersburg State Community College: $327,262 over three years to create the first inclusive higher education program at a Tennessee community college.  The Eagle Access Program proposes enrolling up to 10 students in its 2-year program in the first year.
  • Next Steps at Vanderbilt University: $103,650 for one year and possible funding of $207,300 for an additional two years to create a new, first-of-its-kind interdisciplinary major for students with intellectual disabilities.  The Self-Advocates in Leadership (SAIL) program will be a 4-year program with a focus on disability leadership and public policy.
  • FUTURE at University of Tennessee-Knoxville: $131,322 for one year and possible funding of $246,242 for an additional two years to increase career transition staff and expand outreach to underserved populations.  In addition, it will use funding to create the “Tennessee Believes” Kitchen to provide opportunities for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities to learn how to cook at home and how to cook as a profession.

“We know that inclusive higher education not only benefits the students who participate in the program, the entire student population benefits,” Turner said.  “Providing more opportunities in both our rural and urban areas will help ensure that higher education is accessible for any student with IDD who has the desire to pursue it.”

DIDD received a total of nine applications from state institutions for the Tennessee Believes program.  The funding will be awarded to the four schools in the coming weeks.  Details of in-person check presentations are forthcoming.

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