By: Avigayil Adouth  | 

Makor College Experience Caters to Students With Intellectual Disabilities

In Fall of 2017, Yeshiva University launched the Makor College Experience Program. The program was developed in partnership with Makor Disability Services, formerly known as Women's League Community Residences, and aims to provide young men with intellectual disabilities a classic college experience.

The Makor College Experience is a three-year, non-degree seeking program which aims to mirror the classic Wilf Campus, Yeshiva College experience, allowing students who qualify for disability services to experience the full range of activities and programs available to students studying on the Wilf Campus.

The program has been in the works for two years and was spearheaded by Dr. Stephen Glicksman, an adjunct professor at Yeshiva College and Yeshiva University's Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology. Dr. Glicksman is a licensed developmental psychologist and serves as the Director of Clinical Innovation at Makor Disability Services. He worked closely with Rabbi Penner, RIETS Dean and Rosh Yeshiva, to bring the program from concept to reality this past fall.

Makor Disability Services is an organization which seeks to meet the needs of the disabled community creatively and innovatively. According to Dr. Glicksman, when the idea to create a college experience program was first born, Yeshiva University was the natural choice. Makor’s administration felt that for many, Yeshiva University is a right of passage to which their parents, friends, and siblings had all been granted access.

“Going to YU is not the same thing as going to any college,” Dr. Glicksman explained. “It is really the next step in one’s growth within the Modern Orthodox Jewish Community, and we wanted to open that opportunity to people who until now might have been excluded from it.” This, combined with the fact that, according to Dr. Glicksman “there are a lot of people [within the YU Community] who have experience working with individuals with specialized needs,” made Yeshiva University the perfect place to launch this revolutionary program.

The Makor College Experience is technically a day program of Makor Disability Services in partnership with Yeshiva University. This means that the organization pays YU for the rights to be on campus and benefit from their services. However, Makor students spend their days like any other student on the Wilf Campus. They live in Washington Heights, daven in regular YU minyanim, spend their mornings learning in the Beit Midrash, and attend specially designed classes in Furst Hall. Students have access to all YU facilities, as well as functioning dining cards, which include access to all of the restaurants on the YU meal plan.

The Makor Judaic Studies morning program, including it’s Beit Midrash component, is run by Rabbi Uri Feintuch a RIETS, Wurzweiler alumnus with a background in special education.  The General Studies program, which takes place throughout the afternoon, adapts courses required by, or commonly taken by students on the Wilf Campus such as psychology, economics, and first-year writing, to make them more practical. Classes focus less on theory and more on the practical aspects such as developing interpersonal skills, money management, and resume or cover letter writing. In addition to formal classroom style learning, the General Studies program also has a vocational element. This added piece of programming is designed to teach things such as workplace etiquette and interviewing skills, as well as to help students explore their career options. Dr. Glicksman told The Commentator, “At the end of the three-year program people are going to graduate with a certificate of completion, a resume of all their work experiences over the course of the program, and a letter of reference for a job, hoping to culminate in some sort of employment.”

Students will reside in an off-campus dormitory tentatively named Makor Hall, which is right around the corner from the Wilf Campus. The dorms opened immediately after the holiday break, which is expected to create an increase in the possibility for inclusion of Makor students on the Wilf campus social scene.

"So much of what the young men of Makor are looking for can be found on the Wilf campus,” said Rabbi Penner. “Most of all – their peers are here.” The program aims to create a sense of community and camaraderie for a demographic to whom this might normally be denied. The Makor College Experience program has put forth notices, via email and across campus, for YU student involvement oppurtunities in initiatives such as potential lunch buddies or dinner companionship programs and is trying to facilitate Night Seder chavrutot between Makor and Yeshiva University students.

According to Rabbi Penner, Makor Students “have already become a part of the fabric of the campus.” He said, “They can be seen at minyanim, in the cafeteria, in the beis medrash and in the new 185th street plaza. They bring joy to the campus, always smiling, so glad to be here!”

Dr. Glicksman mentioned that Makor feels that they “have been embraced by the community” and commented that “it is nice to see our students hanging out on the pedestrian mall with their friends in the college, from camp, home, and other programs.” Makor hopes to see Wilf Campus student involvement increase as the academic year picks up.