April 2017 - WJAC News Article: LifeLink PSU opening doors for special needs students


by Matthew Baumgarten Monday, April 17th 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK - Not many students have reason to venture up to the third floor of the HUB on Penn State’s campus. But those who do know why one classroom in particular makes it so special. Classroom 304 in the HUB is the home of LifeLink PSU, a partnership between Penn State University and the State College Area School District that offers unique opportunities to high school special needs students.

Students learn math, reading, and writing but they’re adding more to their resume than just pure academics.

“It’s like the major leagues of high school,” said LifeLink student William Fogelsanger.

Through LifeLink, students with mental and learning disabilities get to attend college classes with mentors and experience college life before they age-out of the high school special needs program.

Teachers say this gives them a head start on figuring out if pursuing higher education is right for them.

"If not they would still be back at the high school until they're 21. They wouldn't be with their same-aged peers and they'd be in the high school for seven or eight years," said LifeLink program director Marla Yukelson.

Outside the classroom, students can also learn how to live independently in their own apartments, or get part-time jobs to help them transition into the workplace.

“This does give them that chance to reach their potential, whatever that may be,” said Yukelson. While LifeLink students work hard, they also save time for games, activities and a little bit of fun. Right now, students are practicing a cheerleading routine for competitions and sports on campus.

“I come into the classroom every morning with a smile on my face,” said LifeLink student Katie Brigger.

Teachers also said through the program, they hope to eliminate stereotypes among employers and society as to what special needs students can accomplish.