USC Aiken PacerLIFE Program helps special needs students succeed

PacerLIFE students from May, 2022.
PacerLIFE students from May, 2022.(PacerLIFE Facebook page)
Published: Nov. 25, 2022 at 1:35 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

JOHNSTON, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - The new PacerLIFE program, which will launch in August 2023, will assist special needs students to continue their education after high school by attending college and learning life and job skills.

The deadline to apply for the 2023 program is Dec. 1.

In the PacerLIFE program, LIFE serves as an acronym for Learning Is For Everyone. The two-year program will support the development of independent living and employment skills by providing experiences living on campus and participating in internships.

When Edgefield County School District Director of the Office of Exceptional Children, Jerrilyn Johnson, herself a USC Aiken alumnus, heard about the program she knew she wanted to present it to families.

“Some students with disabilities and their families are reluctant to go to a school that is far away so having this program at USC Aiken is very important because all students will have an opportunity. It’s so inclusive and that’s what I love about it. All students have an opportunity,” Johnson says.

Rashada James, a special needs parent who attended the meeting, says PacerLIFE can be a life-changing opportunity.

“This means a lot to hear about a program like this because my son never thought he would be able to go to college. This would be big for him. I’m just going to encourage him because he can do it,” James says.

Miesha Kingcannon serves as the district’s Transition Specialist. She is excited about the new opportunities the program will provide to Edgefield County students.

“Our students will have the opportunity to continue their education and learn valuable skills that will allow them to be active in the community,” stated Kingcannon. “Regardless of disability they can also go to college and I love it.”

Dr. Melissa Martin, program director, says, “Only eighteen percent of those with intellectual disabilities nationally are employed, and of those who are employed, they are only making around eleven thousand dollars per year. We hope the program will help to develop students in two ways, through employment and independent living.”

Dr. Martin explains the goal is to prepare the students to have a 20-hour-a-week job, and live independently by the time they leave the program.

For more information on the new PacerLIFE program coming to USC Aiken in 2023 go to the website or call (803) 648-3381.