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Heartland Community College expands program to serve students with learning challenges

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Heartland Community College is expanding its Heartland Academy for Learning Opportunities (HALO) program starting with the fall 2023 semester.

The program focuses on providing a college experience for students ages 18 to 28 with intellectual and developmental disabilities as well as other learning challenges.

The two-year program currently provides coursework involving cooking skills, money skills, reading, computer technology, social development, community awareness, health and wellness, independent living and math.

The goal of the program is to help assist students with independent living skills to help them reach their goals outside of the HALO program, said Kori Folkerts, Heartland’s associate director of student access and accommodation services.

Nickolaus Griffin is a second-year HALO student from Bloomington who has benefitted from the program.

“I’ve honestly learned a lot because coming in, I didn’t know a thing or two, but now I know a lot of things, like how to cook now because when I took the cooking class last year, I finally knew how to cook one or two new things,” Griffin said. “And now with independent learning skills, I’m becoming more independent, like grocery shopping, how to pay taxes and everything.”

Funded by the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) Innovative Bridge and Transition grant, over $200,000 will be used to create a third year for the program that provides students with four additional courses.

The four new courses that will be available to HALO students are success education, professionalism, transition to college/basic skills and social-emotional development.

Folkerts said the third year of the program will help students and their families by providing guidance and a solution to the question of what is next after finishing school.

“This third year would help answer the question, ‘What’s next?'” Folkerts said. “So a lot of the time our students graduate from HALO and then they kind of have to determine ‘What am I going to do next?’ Some of our students take credit courses, some of our students who already have jobs maybe look at excelling their jobs further, so this grant will offer us the opportunity to assist through that process.”

Folkerts added that college is for any student who wants to go.

“College is not a certain look, it’s not a certain style,” Folkerts said. “Anybody can attend college as long as you provide opportunities for students to excel and be successful.”

To learn more or to schedule a HALO college visit, go to heartland.edu/halo.

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