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CofC students making history, first to graduate from REACH Program

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - This weekend two College of Charleston seniors will make history at graduation.

They will be the first students to earn a diploma from a program helping students with mild intellectual disabilities.

"I feel like I have reached my ultimate goal, to be a college graduate," said Brian Porterfield, a future graduate of the REACH Program.

Porterfield is filled with pride, because he and William Farrior, III are making huge accomplishments.

Farrior said, "Four years ago if you told I was going to represent not just the College of Charleston, but the Charleston community, I would have told you you're nuts."

The seniors will be the first two graduates of the REACH Program at the College of Charleston.

"The sky is the limit," said Porterfield.

REACH stands for Realizing Educational and Career Hopes.

Executive Director Edie Cusack said, "Seeing them graduate on Saturday is going to be a dream come true."

Cusack started the program four years ago with the goal of molding students with mild intellectual disabilities.

Cusack said, "They deserve an education, they deserve the right to go forward with their lives and increase their independence."

There'll be 40 students in the program this coming fall.

"We accept 10 students per year," said Cusack.

They are all fully integrated into the fabric of the campus.

Cusack said, "The REACH students take traditional classes with traditional students. They also live in residence halls with traditional students on campus."

Cusack says the professors go through training and the course work is modified to fit the needs of the students. They are all managing these intellectual disabilities that can affect the way they communicate, learn and live.

Porterfield said, "It's okay that you're struggling and you're not understanding the learning curve that you go through. We all learn differently, it's just how we're going to be assertive to take to the learning."

These graduates will continue to reach for positive changes in their lives.

Farrior said, "The best advice I can give you is once you get that opportunity, run. Don't look back, the past is the past. All there is, is to look forward to bigger and brighter things."

The program originally started with funding from a grant, but now they no longer need any of that money.

REACH is a full program of the College of Charleston.

There are still open spots for students to enroll in the REACH Program this coming fall.

The 5th annual scholarship gala will be September 26th at the Daniel Island Club. All of the profits from that event will go to scholarships for students.

Copyright 2014 WCSC. All rights reserved.
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