News | April 20, 2021

College of EducationCommunityCurrent IssueFGCU360 MagazineLearningWeb Extras

Inclusivity is the name of the game for Soaring Eagle Academy

FGCU launches Southwest Florida’s first university program for adults with intellectual disabilities

What would you do if you wanted to go to college and there were no options?

Stephanie Dangler, a Southwest Florida mom, knows what that’s like. It’s something she’s long hoped would change for her son.

“When you are a parent of a child born with intellectual disabilities, you have to go through a lot of explaining or hearing the word[s] ‘might not be able to,’ or ‘can’t do this,’ or ‘won’t ever attend college’ when he wants to be like everybody else,” said Dangler.

Fortunately for Dangler, and parents like her, FGCU President Mike Martin endorsed the creation of a new program that addresses “the university’s goals of meeting the educational and career needs of some of our most underserved constituents while introducing the FGCU community to a diverse but often unseen group that exists within our communities, businesses and families.”

The program is called Soaring Eagle Academy (SEA), Southwest Florida’s first university program for adults with intellectual disabilities. This fall, SEA will welcome its first class of students who are eager to enhance their education and independence. Participants will learn skills that enable them to be more independent when it comes to employment, while earning a credential in community employment within a nurturing, inclusive campus environment.

Doug Carothers, an FGCU education professor, is leading the effort to create SEA.

“What we want the students to get out of this is a college experience, like all of their peers, that prepares them socially, academically and occupationally for life that comes afterwards,” Carothers said. “We hope that SEA students will leave FGCU with all the good memories they can look back on for the rest of their lives, just like the rest of FGCU’s students.”

  • Learn about eligibility and intended outcomes at the SEA website