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Two THRIVE graduates at 2018 Graduation ceremony


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THRIVE Program

Transforming Lives of Students with Disabilities

The THRIVE Program at the University of Central Missouri expands opportunities for students with disabilities so they can live a more independent life.

Through the THRIVE Program, the University of Central Missouri prepares students with disabilities to transition to independent living and find employment that fits their individual goals and abilities. During the two-year program, students are required to live on the UCM campus. They work on improving their academic abilities and peer interactions while learning computer and job skills. They also participate in career-focused internships. THRIVE graduates earn a Certificate of Success along with a personal portfolio. Some students may go on to earn a degree at UCM with the proper student support services in place for their success. Students in the THRIVE program do not have to be their own guardians.

THRIVE's Mission Statement

THRIVE, as a Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, will help empower students to be participating members of their communities and help them gain skills to attain competitive integrated employment.

A Vital Part of UCM Life

THRIVE partners with UCM departments, such as the Communication Disorders Clinic, Nutrition and Kinesiology, Social Work and Counselor Education, providing important hands-on experience for UCM students. Students all across the UCM campus also embrace the THRIVE students. In 2015, the THRIVE program was named an Inclusion Award winner by the Governor’s Council on Disability.

We’re Here to Help

Our THRIVE Team is here to answer your questions or address your concerns. Please email our THRIVE coordinator or call us to learn more about what we have to offer. We also invite you to connect with THRIVE on Facebook.


THRIVE is a Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary Program (CTP)

The THRIVE Program has received approval from the United States Department of Education as a Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary Program (CTP). As a CTP program, students who qualify may receive federal financial aid in the form of the Federal Pell Grant, and the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant. THRIVE students must fill out the FASFA in order to determine eligibility.

THRIVE Open House

We will have our Fall Open House on October 14th, 2024. We will have two opportunities for you to attend: 8:30 am and 1 pm. Each session is expected to last approximately two hours. The Open House will include a presentation about the THRIVE Program and conclude with a tour of campus and a chance to see one of our dorm rooms.

To secure your spot at this Open House, please send an email to with your name, the number of family members or staff that will attend, and the time that you will be visiting.

To learn more about the THRIVE program or to share information about our program, please download our brochure.

Program Details, 1st & 2nd Year

The two-year THRIVE program consists of four semesters over a two-year period. Each semester includes classes developed to help THRIVE students prepare for transitioning to life after high school. This would include independence, academics, and job skills. Students are also required to attend Care To Act Training and also be educated by other UCM departments related to safety.

Here’s what you can expect each semester:

Semester One

  • THRIVE Seminar I: University Foundations & Learning Strategies
  • Daily & Independent Living Skills
  • Beginning Bowling (eight weeks) and Valuing Difference (eight weeks)
  • Technology Literacy Class and Lab
  • PLATO (computerized program for academic/job skills)
  • Recreation or Fitness
  • Person-Centered Planning, Communication, and Study Halls
  • Relationship 101 course

Semester Two

  • THRIVE Seminar II: Workplace and Community Skills
  • Foods & Nutrition I
  • Elective Class (Credit or non-credit based on student interest or career path)
  • PLATO (computerized program for academic/job skills)
  • Recreation or Fitness
  • Person-Centered Planning, Communication, and Study Halls

Semester Three

  • THRIVE Seminar III: Transition Planning I
  • Foods & Nutrition II
  • Elective Class (Credit or non-credit based on student interest or career path)
  • Internship I (individualized, 12-20 hours per week)
  • PLATO (computerized program for academic/job skills)
  • Recreation or Fitness
  • Person-Centered Planning, Communication, and Study Halls

Semester Four

  • THRIVE Seminar IV: Transition Planning II
  • Personal Finance I
  • Elective Class (Credit or non-credit based on student interest or career path)
  • Internship I (individualized, 12-20 hours per week)
  • PLATO (computerized program for academic/job skills)
  • Recreation or Fitness
  • Person-Centered Planning, Communication, and Study Halls


Here are a few of the frequently asked questions we receive. If you don’t find the answers you are seeking, please call our THRIVE coordinator.

Can I take classes for credit?

Students in the THRIVE program can take classes for credit. The first semester the students are auditing the classes. The THRIVE team looks at students abilities and effort during this first semester. If a student shows both the ability and effort to take a class for credit the staff will let the student and their family know. They will then help make the decision of whether to take a class for credit.

Do I need to take the ACT or SAT?

To be in the program at UCM the students don't have to take the ACT/SAT. However, if the student wishes to take a class for credit the ACT/SAT would be suggested to be accepted as a typical student, in order to take classes for credit. The staff, student, and family will look at what options are available for the student.

Can I join one of the athletics teams?

Students in the THRIVE program are not eligible to join the official Mules/Jennies sports teams. They are however able to join in any intramural events that include softball, basketball, track, and others.

What organizations can I join?

There are over 185 clubs available to students on campus. You will be able to find a club that will interest you on campus through our Office of Student Activities.

I won't have a vehicle or don't drive. How can I get around town?

UCM has multiple ways for students to get to businesses around town. First of all, most of the businesses are within walking distance and many groups of THRIVE students can be seen walking to restaurants or stores. We also have Night Ryder, its a method of transportation to get to shopping/entertainment-5pm-11pm Thursday/Friday/Saturday and transportation to downtown Warrensburg 10pm-midnight. We also have Old Drum public transportation. They have a set schedule that drops students off at different locations around town Monday-Friday from 8-4. They stop at the UCM student Union every hour.

Do I have to be my own guardian?

No, THRIVE students can be their own guardian, parents can have a Power of Attorney, or you may have a guardian.

The THRIVE program will look at documents and discuss the options with the families.

Who is responsible for cleaning my room and hall?

Roommates are responsible for sharing the tasks of cleaning their room, this includes the bathroom. Cleaning tasks are assigned and discussed when the students sign their roommate agreement.

What if I don't get along with my roommate?

This can be a typical college student question. Transitioning to college life can be difficult. Many college students experience feelings of loneliness, homesickness, and other fears/concerns. We encourage students to talk to staff and mentors about your concerns. The students are encouraged to continue to talk to parents, but also have the added benefit of our THRIVE Counseling Intern. There are weekly individual and group sessions that include discussion of these college transition difficulties. The UCM campus also offers other services like Counseling Services. If you feel threatened you can also utilize the UCM Campus police.

How will I meet new people?

This is a common question asked by many incoming Freshman, you are not alone in asking this question. UCM is a very inviting campus with many activities and clubs. We encourage each of our students during the first few weeks to look for activities or clubs that interest them. You can participate in intramurals and join a team of a sport that you love. You can also look into the more than 185 clubs to join. The mentors also have activities that they plan to help students participate with their new friends. We anticipate you having many new friends in the first few weeks of classes.

What if I'm sick?

All UCM Students can utilize the Campus Health Center by the Union. We encourage all students to continue to talk to parents about their health concerns. If you need to see a doctor our campus doctors will be able to help you. We encourage students to call early to schedule an appointment.

How do I receive and send mail?

Each student will have their own box at the front desk of their residence hall. Mail is delivered each day to your residence hall except Sundays and holidays. When sending mail or packages to students in University Housing all items must include the student’s name in the address. Packages in a parent or family member’s name cannot be accepted and will be returned to sender. Please include the student’s name when sending packages from Amazon and other online accounts.

To assure prompt delivery, use the following format for your residence hall address:

[Student's Name]
[Hall], [Room #]
Warrensburg, MO 64093

Do I have to carry my room key and student ID with me at all times?

Yes, you must carry your room key and student ID with you at all times. The UCM continues to be a safe campus, but we want you to be secure at all times. Your Student ID will get you into many campus activities. You will also need to have your Student ID to eat at the residence halls, check out movies and check in to some rooms on campus. The Student ID also has your personal information. You should always keep your room locked for the security of your items and also your roommate and suitemates.

What should I do if I get lost?

It is recommended that you keep a campus map with you at all times. This can help you, especially in the first few weeks, find your way around our campus. If you are on campus we recommend that you go to the nearest campus building. You will be able to find an office where someone can assist you. We will also have each of our students put the Safe Team number in their cell phone during the first week of classes. You may call this number anytime to get assistance to a location.

If you are lost in the community we recommend you go to the nearest business and they can help direct you back to the campus. You will also have our campus office phones and email in case of emergency.

Will I receive a grade for classes and internships?

Yes, you will receive a grade for all classes that you take. This grade will be guided by our rubric with either Mastery, Progressing, Needs Support or Insufficient. During the second year, you will also have an internship and they will also follow this rubric. You will also receive comments on how to improve any areas.

What happens if I miss class?

Class attendance and participation are key parts of any college class. Students are responsible for attending every class, internship, and any other activity regularly. Attendance and participation are included in your grade for each course. If a student is going to miss a class, internship or activity they are asked to email the instructor and THRIVE staff as early as possible. This helps to ensure proper coverage at any of these activities.

Instructors and/or businesses have structured office hours and if you have made an appointment and can't make it, you are taking valuable time away from them helping other students. If you miss a class it is your responsibility to set up a time to follow-up with the teacher about any work that is missed and get any assigned work completed on time.

What happens if I get in trouble by breaking a university or hall policy?

Our students follow the same rules or policies as any other student on the UCM campus. You will want to look at your student handbook and your THRIVE Handbook for these policies. The THRIVE team will help you understand the rules/policies during the first few weeks and we will also take the time to remind students at other times throughout the semester. THRIVE Staff will be involved in the disciplinary process and outcome of the decision.

THRIVE students can be dismissed from the University of Central Missouri and the THRIVE Program. Violations of any rules/policies can result in written warnings, probation, restitution/fines, suspension, or expulsion.

Who should I contact if there is an emergency on campus?

There are several ways to contact UCM Office of Public Safety on campus. We have students put the UCM Public Safety and Safe Team phone numbers (660-543-4123) in their cell phones during the first week of class. Our university also utilizes the Campus Eye App.

The Campus Eye app is available for students, faculty and staff to report pertinent information directly to public safety and campus facilities personnel. See the Mobile User App Guide below to get your user access code and for details on how to use the App. The free, downloadable app features the ability to create a note describing the safety or security incident. Users may also take or attach a picture of the incident. The app automatically detects the location of the user and creates a map with a pin drop of the user's exact location. All content sent to respective college departments includes the sender's name and phone number along with the date and time of each report. Other app features let users set personal attributes, like if they are deaf and hard of hearing, visually impaired, or require the use of a wheelchair.

We also encourage students to contact the UCM Office of Public Safety if you have an emergency. If something happens to go to the nearest campus building and report the emergency to a staff member. If it is a weather-related emergency the staff will help you. Follow their directions at the time of the emergency.

For more THRIVE information please continue to look through the website, at FAQ's, or contact the THRIVE Coordinator.

Meet the Team

Our team is here to help you have the best college experience you can have.


Michael Brunkhorst

THRIVE Director
Lov 1366
(660) 543-4260


Dr. Nicole Carleton

Assistant Professor
Lov 1337
(660) 543-4307


Dr. Gary Manning

THRIVE Advisor/Case Manager
Lov 1366
(660) 543-4896


Lisa Garnier

THRIVE Advisor/Case Manager 
Lov 1366
(660) 543-8537


Debra Southard 

THRIVE Instructional Liaison
Lov 1366
(660) 543-8537



THRIVE Therapy Dog
Lov 1366

Michael Brunkhorst

Mr. Brunkhorst received his MSE in Special Education from the University of Central Missouri in 2005. He received his Bachelor of Science in General Management from UCM in 1992. He has over 13 years of retail management experience and 14 years of teaching experience, including working at the middle school, elementary, and high school settings. He has been a special education teacher, process coordinator, and transition coordinator, as well as the Instructional Liaison for the program.

In August 2017, he became a THRIVE Advisor and Case Manager and in 2018 he became the THRIVE Director. He uses his past work and job experiences to assist students with their careers. He also works with creating internship experiences within the community for 2nd-year THRIVE students. In addition, he assists students in selecting classes and schedules during their time in the program.


Dr. Nicole Carleton

Dr. Carleton earned her BA in Elementary Education from Graceland University, her MS in Counseling from UCM, and her PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision from Kansas State University. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Registered Play Therapist, and Nationally Board-Certified Counselor. She has experience developing, managing, and implementing comprehensive school counseling programs in the public school system as a school counselor and has served clients and their families in private practice as a clinical counselor. Dr. Carleton specializes in play therapy and childhood mental health, emphasizing trauma, attachment problems, and adolescent depression. She has presented at state, regional, and national conferences on a variety of topics related to play therapy, school counseling, ethics, and supervision. Her research interests include exploring barriers to pursuing play therapy training and credentialing, issues in school counseling supervision, and issues related to hybrid and digital remote instruction in counselor education. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, reading, traveling, attending concerts and live music events, and spending time with her husband and two children. 


Dr. Gary Manning

Dr. Manning is the THRIVE case manager/advisor for second-year students and works with their internships. He teaches Transition Planning I & II and assists students in selecting classes and schedules. He received his EdD in Education Leadership from St. Louis University in 2013. He received his EdS in K-12 School Administration from UCM in 2005, his M.S. in Physical Education with an emphasis in athletic administration from UCM in 1999, and his BSE in Physical Education K-12/Social Studies 7-9 from UCM in 1994. He has over twenty years as an educator, including serving as a superintendent, secondary school principal, elementary principal, physical education/social studies teacher, basketball/track coach, and adjunct professor at UCM.


Lisa Garnier

Lisa Garnier received both her BA and MA in English from the University of Central Missouri. She has over 23 years of teaching experience between positions at Holden, UCM, State Fair Community College, and Metropolitan Community College: Longview. Lisa was an adjunct instructor in the THRIVE program at UCM for four years, and now serves as a case manager/advisor for THRIVE students.


Debra Southard

Debra Southard received her MSE in Curriculum and Instruction from University of Central Missouri in 2003. She received her Bachelor of Science in Education from UCM in 1988. She has 25 years of High School teaching experience between positions in Chilhowee, Lone Jack, and Holden, Missouri. She taught daily living skills to a wide range of students from different back grounds and abilities. She substitute taught at both the middle and high school levels. She gained knowledge of the interworking of the University by serving as substitute Office Professional for several offices on campus.

She teaches first year THRIVE students and is the administrator of Plato, an online classroom program. She meets regularly with first year students to help with organization skills, class assignments, and social adjustments. She works with instructors on campus to obtain updates on THRIVE students and provides extra support where needed.



Nash is THRIVE's therapy dog. Nash came to the THRIVE Program in December of 2018. He was originally trained in Missouri's Puppies for Parole Program. He then underwent more training after getting his Canine Good Citizenship award. He now is a certified therapy dog through 4 Paws InSync and the AKC. He spends some of his week with Mr. Brunkhorst and gets to help give therapy to the THRIVE students. He works for "pets."


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