Today, Wednesday, May 1, 2024, is Inclusive Postsecondary Education Day (#IPSEDay2024)—a day to raise awareness about postsecondary education options for students with intellectual disabilities. It’s a day to highlight that students with disabilities can continue to learn after high school, can access financial aid, and are capable of securing competitive jobs after college.

Only about 6% of all colleges and universities in the United States have programs for people with disabilities. City Colleges of Chicago is proud to have two: After 22 and Project Wright Access.

Richard J. Daley College’s After 22 program has given student Jaurique McClain a sense of independence he’s never felt before.

Jaurique has autism and was about to be aged out of the traditional school system at 22. Thanks to a partnership between Southside Occupational Academy High School, Daley College, and the Anixter Center, funded by Special Olympics Chicago/Special Children’s Charities, Jaurique was able to continue his schooling and attend college.

Jaurique McClain

The After 22 program connects adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to career training, educational opportunities, and jobs. Through the program, Jaurique can continue to build on lessons he learned in high school through academic, life skills, and job-related coursework at Daley.

“Before Daley, I was not comfortable advocating for myself or asking questions. It stressed me out because I didn’t want my classmates to learn what I didn’t know,” he said. “But at Daley, all of my instructors treated me and my classmates as equals. They truly respected me. To my surprise, I began to feel like an adult for the first time. I started asking questions without stressing out.”

When Jaurique and his more than 30 classmates participate in the first After 22 graduation in August, they’ll be prepared to reach the goals they’ve set for the next phase of life. It’s Jaurique’s goal to work in a retail stockroom.

After 22 is Daley College’s comprehensive transition program for adults with disabilities 18 and older. Historically, after the age of 22, people with disabilities age out of traditional schools. This left them with few options to further their education, until now. In addition to After 22 which is available at Daley and Wilbur Wright College, young people with disabilities have another option at City Colleges.

For the past two years, Wright College’s Project Wright Access has been training young adults with developmental and cognitive disabilities to build career skills. During this 10-week training class, students split their time in the classroom and at an internship at a nearby business. They also earn a $1,000 stipend for their participation. The latest group of graduates were celebrated at a ceremony at Eli’s Cheesecake on April 4.

City Colleges has a rich history of educating diverse groups of lifelong learners. The addition of programs like After 22 and Project Wright Access add significant value to our offerings and our inclusive communities.