JWCC College for Life benefits people with intellectual, developmental disabilities.

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jul. 25, 2018 9:55 am Updated: Jul. 25, 2018 3:43 pm

QUINCY -- John Wood Community College has created a three-year certificate to continue and help grow its College for Life program, which benefits students 18 and older who have intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The College for Life program, which began last year as a pilot project, is offering an 18-course certificate that is available for continuing College for Life students and those taking courses for the first time.

The certificate includes core and elective courses, such as personal finance, healthy foods/fitness, positive communication, drama/dance, bell choir, German, healthy relationships, work readiness, first-year college experience and person-centered planning.

Students must enroll in a minimum of three courses each semester, including a self-advocacy course to learn about disability rights and find out how to make sound personal decisions about their future.

"Prior to College for Life, students with intellectual and developmental disabilities in this area wouldn't have dreamed they could continue their education after high school, let alone become valued members of a college community," said Michele Westmaas, coordinator of the College for Life program. "Their options went from waiting behind thousands for a spot in a day program and staying at home to a world of learning and growth."

JWCC collaborates with community groups for classroom instruction. Partners include Blessing Health System, Quincy Community Theatre and the Western Illinois Center for Independent Living.

New instructors are being sought and can contact Westmaas for more information about requirements.

Students attend 50-minute classes from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. two days a week at JWCC's Quincy campus. Cost for each course is $250, and some may have additional fees for supplies.

The concept came to life last fall when a group of nine students were part of the pilot program. That group completed 10 noncredit hours, performed concerts, self-published books and presented projects to JWCC President Mike Elbe.

Three of the nine students later began developmental courses to improve academic skills and to prepare for the possibility of enrolling in credit-bearing courses at the college.

"For many, this program has changed the course of their entire life," Westmaas said.

This year's classes follow JWCC's academic calendar, with fall classes beginning Aug. 20.

Westmaas recommended that prospective students meet with her to discuss their needs and abilities before registration. Westmaas can be reached at 217-641-4340 or

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