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FAQs from Families

The WCU University Participant (UP) Program is designed to provide a two-year, on-campus living and learning experience for college-age persons with intellectual disabilities. The program is limited to a maximum enrollment of 12 UP students at a time.

Eligibility for admission includes the following:

  • Is typically between the ages of 18 and 25 at the time of admission
  • Has a documented intellectual disability (IQ ~ 70 or lower)
  • Completed high school but did not receive a traditional diploma or other documentation that would allow for typical WCU admission
  • Demonstrates adequate communication skills
  • Demonstrates socially acceptable behavior
  • Ability to stay unsupervised overnight and manage their own medications
  • Is adequately motivated to learn and benefit from participation in the program
  • Has an expressed interest in living and working as independently as possible in the community after UP Program completion and strong family support

If you have a standard high school diploma, we encourage you to apply to colleges in the traditional way since you meet the required admission guidelines for degree-seeking students. However, if you completed high school and received special education services that did not lead to a standard high school diploma (e.g., occupational course of study diploma or certificate of completion) then we would encourage you to apply to the UP Program.

Interested UP applicants must apply for admission by December 1 each year if they are seeking admission to the university in the next year's fall semester. You can learn more about this process through the prospective UP students and families page of our website. Once all applications have been received, the UP Admissions Steering Committee reviews application materials and determines who is accepted into the program based on materials and information submitted.

Cost will vary according the number of classes, type of meal plan, and the residence hall chosen. WCU provides annual information on costs of admission and fees to help you prepare financially. Once you have been accepted in the program, UP personnel will talk to you about specific costs and provide materials beyond this resource so you can plan accordingly. Applicants applying from out of state also will be required to pay out-of-state tuition and fees.

Typical participation in the program lasts two academic years or four semesters.

Each UP student (with support as needed from an undergraduate natural support and the UP staff) develops and uses a weekly schedule tailored to his or her specific needs and interests. Classes, work times, activities of interest and UP Program events are included in each schedule. With some advanced notice and coordinating, UP students may change their schedules by contacting UP Program schedulers and appropriate personnel. 

UP students will receive a UP Certificate of Accomplishment. This certificate is awarded after a two-year period based on satisfactory completion of 1,800 hours (450 per semester) of learning activities in the five program components. These components include:

  • Personal development skills
  • Community participation skills
  • Vocational preparation skills
  • Social participation and learning
  • Course auditing

UP students must also achieve at least 80 percent of their Individualized Plan for College Participation objectives, complete semester-long, on-campus employment internships, community employment or internships, and be recommended by the UP Program Steering Committee for the certificate.

The UP Program will serve a maximum of 12 students per year. Typically, we can accept 5-7 new students each year, depending on how many second-year students there will be. 

Yes. Each UP student is required to work 10 hours a week at on or off-campus internships. While on the job, UP students are supported as needed by site supervisors, UP paid or unpaid volunteers, and the UP Program career development coordinator. Upon completion of the program, UP students are transitioned into the community, where the career development coordinator, in collaboration with employment agencies such as North Carolina Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services and community service providers, will assist UP students in securing inclusive, community-based, competitive employment. UP students will continue to be monitored for up to one year in the community. 

UP students may be eligible to apply for scholarships, grants and federal funds provided through the WCU Development Office or Federal Financial Aid Title IV funds. Contact UP Program personnel, for more information on grants and scholarships.

Integration is a key to the success of our program. UP students are treated like any other WCU student. They participate in general courses, work typical jobs and socialize with friends. Allowing UP students to live and learn in the same ways as their peers prepares them for transitions back into the community and also provides them with academic, social and vocational skills needed for independent living.

Upon completion of the program, UP students transition back into the community where they apply knowledge and skills gained through the program to everyday living. With assistance from UP Program personnel and family, they decide where they want to live and work. UP students are monitored for one year to ensure a successful transition.

FAQs from UP Students

Yes, they may visit you at any time during day and in the evening until your bedtime. It is common courtesy due to busy schedules to plan ahead for more engaging family visits.

You are responsible for cleaning your room. If you share a bathroom with a suitemate, you will share the responsibility of cleaning with them. While any public areas, such as hallways, kitchens and lobbies will be cleaned by university staff, it is always polite and respectful to do your part in helping keep the public areas clean.

During the normal school year they are 10pm to 8am every day. During finals week, quiet hours are 24 hours a day. Notices will be placed around your residence hall to remind you of this rule.

Each UP student's schedule is unique to their class, work and leisure choices. You will receive a new schedule each week that will help you stay organized and get where you need to be throughout the day. If you wish to change your schedule, you may do so by notifying the person helping you create your schedule and the volunteers. You can check out some of what a day in the life looks like on our student life page!

It is okay to go off campus with supports that work with you regularly. HOWEVER, please be sure to let the UP staff member or your scheduler know before leaving and when you return to campus. Always take your cell phone with you charged and be available to check in at anytime. Be sure suitemates also know of your plans to be off campus at anytime between 10 pm and 7 am. If you feel in danger with any driving behaviors or situations that make you feel uncomfortable, be sure to report your concerns to someone you trust or the UP emergency phone as soon as possible.

As encouraged by the university police, it is important to travel with someone for safety as much as possible in well lit areas. Remain alert and not on your phone or listening to music as you walk around campus. Report any concerns to UP supports or personnel if you feel someone is making you feel uncomfortable or you feel unsafe.

If you have a continuing or serious problem with your suitemate, you may contact the UP staff and request a meeting to discuss possible options.

Yes. If you do not carry these items, you may not be able to purchase meals, participate in campus activities or get into your dorm room. It is important to keep up with these items are they are really expensive to replace!

You will get a Catamount student email address once you have been accepted to WCU. It is important to check this email daily as everyone communicates this way including your professors.

You will get a student campus address once you have been accepted to WCU. You will have a mailbox in the student mail room in the University Center and will receive a mail key to check your mailbox. Friends and family will be able to send cards and packages to your student campus mailing address. You can find this address when you get your mailroom key.

The UP Program has more than 200 volunteers. You will get to know many of these volunteers throughout your two years in the program. You will also have the opportunity to meet new people by going to class, eating in the dining hall and by participating in events hosted by the University. The more you socialize rather than staying in your dorm room, the more people you will meet.

If you are with a volunteer you should notify them first. They can help talk you through concerns you may have, or they can help you find a safe place to go if you are feeling scared. If you are alone, you may call the UP Program emergency cell phone at 828-550-1990 to contact UP personnel. Call University Police at 828-227-8911 only if you are in immediate danger.

If you are feeling sick you should let your support know, contact the UP Emergency Phone to determine next steps, and then possibly schedule an appointment at Student Health Services (828-227-7640). 

You may contact University police at 828-227-8911 for campus-related emergencies or the UP Program emergency cell phone at 828-550-1990 for urgent problems.

If you miss a class, you should contact your professor as soon as possible. You should be able to access contact information through your course content on Canvas. You may also be able to find contact information on your printed course syllabus. When you contact the professor, make sure you tell the professor your name, the date and time of the class you missed, and why you missed the class. Many professors will work with you to find a way for you to make up missed work.

As a student in the UP Program, you will be auditing all of your course work. This means that you will not receive a letter grade. Your progress is monitored through the professor’s rating of your class performance, participation and effort. You will have other pass or fail requirements from class that will be decided at your person-centered planning meetings.

If you do not follow academic policies provided by WCU, your professor can decide to give you a failing grade or request to have you removed from class and even the university. If you act out in a way that is not socially appropriate or could harm yourself or others, the UP Program Steering Committee can and will remove you from the program. Like your student peers, you are responsible for following all the rules and regulations outlined in the Student Code of Conduct.

You will have a paid or unpaid natural support who is about the same age, with you at all times when you first come into the program. They will help you get around campus; locate class, work and the dining hall; and stay on schedule, as well as assist you with any questions or concerns you may have. Once you have been on campus and proven that you are ready to be more independent, you will be able to do things on your own throughout the day. You will still be able to contact UP personnel at any point throughout the day if you decide you need assistance. It is required that you can use a cell phone efficiently and keep it charged before you can go around campus on your own.

If you are lost on campus or cannot find where you need to be, call the UP Program emergency cell phone at 828-550-1990 or a trusted volunteer. Be ready to give details about your location or FaceTime so that the person you are talking to can come find you. If you are not able to contact UP personnel or a volunteer, you should call the University Police at 828-227-8911.

 FAQs from Volunteers

Yes! The UP students love to meet new friends. Just be sure you are including them fully and not ignoring them if you are with a group of friends. You are also responsible for your friends behaviors.

If you would like to take them off campus, you need to get it approved in advance by the UP Program staff. If UP students are not their own guardians, it is common courtesy to also notify their parents/guardians of off-campus travel.

The UP personnel will post weekly schedules by Wednesday of each week in WhenToWork.This scheduling software will send you an email saying a schedule has been published if your email notifications are set up appropriately. It is important to pick up shifts you would like to cover and review shifts already assigned. Schedule changes also require you to notify UP students directly.

Program personnel send out reminder and update emails to every volunteer to keep everyone informed as well. The best way to stay up to date is our Canvas course, titled “WCU UP Program.” This course allows volunteers to easily access important documents, schedules, facts and dates related to the program. You can also stay connected through the WCU UP Program website.

In the event of a medical emergency, call 911. Then call UP Program personnel at 828-550-1990 to get help. Once medical help is with you, please work with UP staff to also help notify UP student's parents or guardians.

Confirm with the UP student and scheduled volunteer and then email or otherwise contact the assigned UP scheduler with the change.

A suitemate is a WCU student who lives in a residence hall and supports the UP students in their residence hall, typically sharing a bathroom. If you would like to be a suitemate you can contact the UP Program staff by email. The suitemate provides nightly care as needed and some independent living support to UP students. Suitemates are required to be in their residence hall rooms by 10 p.m. each night and remain there until 8 a.m. to provide support if needed during nighttime hours (e.g., fire and tornado drills). If you are not staying in the dorms overnight, you must notify the UP Program and find a substitute volunteer willing to cover for you overnight.

Each UP student’s homework assignments will be posted in Canvas through the WCU UP Program organization site. You can look on the site on the Discussion Board and see what the UP student needs help with. Also, UP students each have an agenda book for recording homework that they take to class. For additional homework or course related questions, contact the UP staff assigned to support academics or homework as explained in your training.

As you work with specific UP students based on the weekly volunteer schedule, you will need to report progress on UP students' Individual Plan for College Participation goals and how to measure these. A survey, accessed through a Canvas link, should be completed each week. Training and examples for how to do this will be available face-to-face and in Canvas. You can also email the UP Program staff directly with other concerns or more urgent issues.

You can call the emergency cell phone number 828-550-1990 to reach UP Program personnel and discuss concerns or issues that arise. You can also email the UP Program staff who will share a specific behavior protocol for inappropriate behaviors that you can follow. You are not under any obligation to continue working with a UP student that is repeatedly disrespectful towards you.

Desirable volunteer qualities include professionalism, flexibility, dependability, and responsibility; showing you care and wanting to be involved; not being too protective and doing everything for UP students but stepping back to let them learn; having fun but remembering to be a good role model; talking through issues with UP students in a calm manner; taking leadership roles and exhibiting good problem-solving skills; reporting information to UP Program personnel; and being a team player with all other volunteers.

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