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Independent Living! Wayfinders Program at Fresno State

Independent Living! Wayfinders Program at Fresno State

>>Narrator: Marissa loves being in the Wayfinders program at Fresno State, going to sporting events or seeing a movie on campus. She even works at Colorado Grill.>>Narrator: Marissa has Down syndrome but is moving into her own apartment, thanks to the independent living skills she’s learned in the two-year program.>>Jeremy Pedersen, Wayfinders Student: I’m 26, and I have my permit, so…[laughs]>>Narrator: Jeremy Pedersen’s goal is to drive, now that he’s been seizure-free for 11 years. His other goal is to be a teacher.>>Pedersen: I was getting nowhere with my job beforehand.>>Narrator: So he joined Wayfinders, which set him up with a job at HomeGoods. Now he’s learning job skills like showing up on time and staying on task.>>Pedersen: If any customer needs help, I’ll help them out and and then I’ll help my teammates out if they need help.>>Narrator: He hopes to build on these skills as he starts working on his degree this fall, so he’s ready to be a teacher when he graduates.>>Shail Lopez Ortiz- Executive Director of Wayfinders: All these kills that we take for granted, we are now teaching these students how to do that.>>Narrator: Shail Lopez Ortiz heads the Wayfinders Program, a two-year certificate program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, like autism or Down syndrome. The three-year old pilot program is funded by a federal grant and though the regional center. It’s the peer inclusion and socialization that makes the program unique.>>Lopez Ortiz: What really happens at Fresno State is that they are with peers their own age and it really stretches their mind because they are seeing peer-appropriate behaviors.>>Narrator: Students live in the Palazzo apartments and learn things like budgeting and cooking. They also take classes on campus, attend events to learn socialization and organization skills, and are placed in jobs where they learn skills like how to understand social cues from the customers or their boss. And at the end…>>Announcer: Marrissa Ann Erickson! They get to walk the stage, ready to walk on their own in life. The Wayfinders program is open to the community, so if you’d like to apply for future cohorts, contact Fresno State.

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