By Mike Greife, November 18, 2015
WARRENSBURG, MO – The University of Central Missouri’s THRIVE program recently hosted
a group from Russia who visited the campus to learn more about the UCM program that
provides a two-year, residential college experience for intellectually challenged
The group, representatives of the Down syndrome organizations Downside Up in Moscow and Sun Children in Yekaterinburg, is visiting Kansas City as part of an exchange program between the Down Syndrome Guild of Kansas City. Amy Allison, executive director of DSG of Kansas City, accompanied the group to UCM.
Speaking through a Russian-English interpreter, Karen Fahrmeier, coordinator of the THRIVE program, provided an overview of the program, along with Jessica Rhodes, THRIVE case manager; Mike Brunkhorst, THRIVE instructor; Joyce Downing, assistant dean of the UCM College of Education; and three currently enrolled THRIVE students.
Fahrmeier detailed the founding of the program during fall semester 2010 and its growth in the ensuing years. She also explained how the curriculum is developed to accommodate individual differences while also providing an opportunity for each student to develop independent living skills while living and studying in the mainstream university community.
The group then visited the residence hall where THRIVE student reside on campus, visiting with students and their mentors. After touring the UCM Student Recreation and Wellness Center, the group visited a classroom of THRIVE students.
“We were pleased that they were interested in our program,” Fahrmeier said. “We felt like it was a terrific opportunity to share our program on the international level, and we were happy to do so.” She added that the group asked a variety of specific questions about many aspects of the program, taking notes and expressing their interest is the residential and independent living aspects of the program.
Allison noted the diversity of the group, which was made up of not only an educator, but also a not-for-profit fundraiser, occupational therapist, speech therapist, adaptive physical education teacher, psychologist and Special Olympics regional coordinator.
She explained the visit to Kansas City and UCM came about as a result of collaboration between the DSG of Kansas City and a similar group in Russia interested in studying opportunities for children and adults with Down syndrome. Funded by a grant from the U.S. State Department, Allison has traveled to Russia and participated in teleconferences over a period of two years to share information and explore the subject. In turn, the group from Russia currently is visiting Kansas City for two weeks, studying best practices and visiting early childhood education providers, Down syndrome clinics, public schools and adult services providers.
“They were impressed with the THRIVE program,” Allison said, noting that students from several of the families served by DSG of Kansas City have participated in THRIVE. “They weren’t aware of any similar programs in Russia, where students with Down syndrome attending college are not mainstreamed into the general college population.”