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LifeLink: Helping Students Excel After High School For 15 academic years, from Classroom 304 of the HUB at Pennsylvania State University, LifeLink PSU has provided special education to students between the ages of 18 and 21. It all began when high school teachers became aware of a need in older special education students.

Teri Lindner, a former SCASD special education teacher, founded the program with the assistance of Patrick Moore, the former SCASD director of special education, and Dr. Sharon Salter, the current director of special education. Instead of repeating courses with students significantly younger, special education, 18-21-year-old students continue advancing their education and life skills through college-quality education and strive for independence.

“LifeLink PSU students sit-in on 100- and 200-level classes through PSU,” Program Coordinator for LifeLink PSU, Marla Yukelson, says. Yukelson explains LifeLink PSU also provides reading and math instruction based on every student's Individualized Education Program. Students participate in “activities in the community, attend sporting events and in the spring have an inclusive cheerleading group, called CheerLink, that performs at PSU basketball and baseball games and in a competition in Pennsylvania.”  

The significance of LifeLink PSU is seen in the development of their students, and their students' involvement within the community. The number of PSU students who volunteer for the program has increased from 40 in their first academic year to 600 last year; however, gaining public awareness of the program has been the greatest obstacle. “I think people should care about people with disabilities in general — that population needs to have opportunities that are similar to what is available for the general population,” Yukelson states. Yukelson further explains “possibilities are endless no matter what your abilities or disabilities” and people should care about one another.

Caring and moving forward is what the program encourages. Yukelson reflects on her decision to join LifeLink PSU, saying it is the best decision she ever made. It is all thanks to Moore, who offered her the position upon his retiring. Just as the students of LifeLink PSU have, she and all those involved with the program work together to progress.

When asked what LifeLink PSU's No. 1 advice is, Yukelson replies it is about the necessity for respect. Every person should have respect in themselves and how they behave toward others. Only then can individuals be treated fairly, and all of us move forward.

LifeLink PSU's goals for the future are to continue providing education and life skills to students in order for them to build the foundation they need to graduate, be a part of the community and find their place in the workforce. Yukelson speaks of wanting the program to expand to include options comparable to DREAM Partnership's post-secondary education.