Photo caption: Mandel Ayele Merceron Montilus and James Sanders Freels were recognized for their achievements in the IDEAL program at the College of Education & Human Development’s 2019 Honor’s Day Ceremony.
ATLANTA—James Sanders Freels and Mandel Ayele Merceron Montilus graduated this spring with a Certificate of Career Readiness from Georgia State University’s Inclusive Digital Expression and Literacy (IDEAL) Program.
The IDEAL program, an inclusive post-secondary program for students with mild intellectual disabilities, provides a two-year course of study where students audit general undergraduate courses offered by Georgia State colleges and academic departments; participate in program-specific seminars on self-advocacy, dating and relationships, financial literacy, career development and independent living skills; complete work-study and internship experiences; and engage in a variety of extracurricular activities on campus. It’s one of more than 250 inclusive postsecondary programs for individuals with intellectual disabilities at universities and colleges across the country.
Freels and Montilus were recognized for their achievements in the IDEAL program at the College of Education & Human Development’s Honor’s Day Ceremony on April 17.
“It’s been amazing to watch Jimmy and Mandel take advantage of all the opportunities available at Georgia State,” said Andy Roach, CEHD associate professor and co-director of the IDEAL program. “Like so many students with intellectual disabilities, Mandel and Jimmy proved that, given appropriate supports and accommodations, college was a great next step in their education.”
Montilus, who began the IDEAL program in 2017, took classes in art, film and video game design. Most recently, he has enjoyed taking a French class, swimming at the Recreation Center and becoming a video game champion with his friends in the Student Center. Montilus participated in an internship at both GSTV as a sports broadcaster interviewing sports fans and at the Georgia State Library organizing books in special collections. After graduation, he is hoping to get a job at a video game store, keeping things organized and talking to customers about games he likes best.
“This program is genuinely ideal for young folks with special brains that express and experience the world differently. Our children, who often cling to their routine as a way to navigate the world, are gently nudged to grow out of their comfort zone while they challenge themselves,” said Nadege Cherubin, Montilus’s mother.
Freels, who also began the IDEAL program in 2017, took classes in creative writing, communication, theatre, copy editing and play analysis. Over the last year, he has been working in internship positions at The Signal and The Underground, two of Georgia State’s student newspapers, where he has been published multiple times as a staff columnist. Much of his work and writing surrounds topics of disability and inclusion, challenging the paradigm of stigma and lacking opportunities of educational access. After graduation, Freels would like to continue his education, contract write for different publications and manage his own theater.
“It’s been a wild ride,” Freels said. “I enjoyed my time in IDEAL – I’ll carry it with me forever.”
For more information about the IDEAL program, visit https://disability.publichealth.gsu.edu/ideal.