WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A $145,012 grant from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (MDHE) will help Westfield State University support students with intellectual disabilities.

According to MDHE Commissioner Noe Ortega, the grant will continue to benefit Westfield State’s Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative (MAICEI).  

In a letter to Westfield State University President Linda Thompson, Ortega thanked Westfield State for its participation in the program, noting, “Thanks to the leadership of institutions like yours, Massachusetts has distinguished itself as a national leader in creating authentic, inclusive learning opportunities for young adults with intellectual disabilities.”

The MAICEI program provides dual enrollment opportunities to high school students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, ages 18-21, in an inclusive college environment. Through the MAICEI program, students gain independence and improve their quality of life.

Governor Maura T. Healey and Lieutenant Governor Kimberly Driscoll, also thanked the leadership of Westfield in continuing and supporting MAICEI programming, stating in a letter, “We want to thank you for your commitment to providing academic, social, and career development opportunities for young adults with intellectual disabilities. Through this funding and your support, we hope to expand access to great educational opportunities for every student in the Commonwealth.”

President Thompson emphasized MAICEI’s connection to Westfield State’s mission and values noting,  “Westfield State University is committed to provide an educational environment where all students can thrive and flourish, providing the skills, knowledge, and tools to realize success in their chosen occupation. We are proud to be one of 14 institutions around the state that participate in this important initiative, and we look forward to continuing our efforts in offering programs that guide our students toward achieving their goals.”

Westfield State will be able to continue offering inclusive postsecondary education options to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who have been historically denied college chances. Aside from giving Westfield State funding to keep including I/DD students between the ages of 18-21, the grant also creates opportunities to expand the program to people 22 years and older, ensuring compliance with the landmark legislation “Creating Higher Education Opportunities for Students with Intellectual Disabilities, Autism, and Other Developmental Disabilities.”

Lyndsey Nunes, director of Westfield State’s MAICEI, expressed gratitude for the state’s continued support, “We are extremely grateful to the administration, staff, faculty, and students at Westfield State. It is the commitment of the entire campus community to authentic inclusion that has allowed us to build our program over the last 11 years and be part of a national movement, creating a more accepting and inclusive society.” 

Local News

Kayleigh Thomas is a digital reporter who has been a part of the 22News team since 2022. Follow Kayleigh on Twitter @kayleighcthomas and view her bio to see more of her work.