Appalachian State University’s Scholars with Diverse Abilities Program (SDAP) was invited to present its innovative program for students with intellectual disabilities to the 2021 Fulbright Teaching Excellence and Achievement (TEA) fellows currently visiting campus from 18 countries around the globe. SDAP is one of the older inclusive postsecondary education programs for students in the country and has been considered a model program by the Department of Education for its level of inclusivity.
Left to right: Renee Yong (SDAP staff), Anozie Ukaegbu (Nigeria), Remi Douglas (SDAP student), Brian Mupeti (Zimbabwe). Photo submitted.
The presentation began with the typical Wednesday morning mindfulness activity and then transitioned to the more than 50 SDAP students, staff, peer-mentors, and Fulbright TEA Fellows engaging in a lively cultural exchange around tables set up in the Parkway Ballroom in Plemmons Student Union. Conversations included:
- Remi Douglas told a visiting teacher from Nigeria about his favorite class, Cultivating Creative Expression through Music, and his favorite club, the Japanese Culture Club.
- Jack Juarez described to teachers from Zimbabwe his experiences living in Summit Hall dorm and how happy he is being at App. “I really enjoy being in the Best Buddies Club.”
- Adeola Akinsulure, a Fulbright TEA Fellow and biology teacher from Nigeria, shared her experience visiting Grandfather Mountain’s Mile High Swinging Bridge, also a favorite spot of many SDAP students.
Additionally, there were conversations about how learning occurs during a pandemic with participants swapping stories about the challenges of remote learning.
“This encounter today is not just about the fellows learning about us; it is an opportunity for us to learn from them. It is mutually beneficial,” said SDAP Director and Reich College of Education assistant professor Dr. Susan Hedges.
“This encounter today is not just about the fellows learning about us; it is an opportunity for us to learn from them. It is mutually beneficial.”
After the exchange, several of the Fulbright TEA Fellows expressed interest in starting programs like SDAP in their home countries.
App State’s 21 Fulbright TEA Fellows are secondary school teachers of English, social studies, math, science, and special education who travel to the U.S. from around the world to engage in a cultural exchange, learn from educators at American universities, and enhance their teaching skills. The fellows come from diverse backgrounds and share a common goal of developing their teaching methodologies but also engaging in cultural exchange. Fulbright TEA is a program of the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government, administered by IREX.
SDAP prepares college-aged students with intellectual disabilities for personal growth and occupational success. The goal upon completion of the program is that students obtain competitive, integrated employment and live independent, fulfilling lives.