Middlesex County College Program That Helps Students With Learning Disabilities Receives Federal Grant

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EDISON — Project Connections, a program at Middlesex County College that provides intensive support services for college-able students with learning disabilities, has received a five-year federal grant. The program, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, will receive $297,987 per year, making the full allocation almost $1.5 million.

“We are thrilled to be funded again,” said Dr. John Herrling, director of the college’s Counseling and Career Services Office, which oversees Project Connections. “This is a program that has helped hundreds of people learn strategies to compensate for their disability and move into successful careers.”

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The funding was announced by United States Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, who also reported on grants to 13 other New Jersey colleges and universities.

“This funding will help ease financial restraints and level the playing field for students with difficult circumstances that are beyond their control,”  Lautenberg said. “With New Jersey being home to so many excellent colleges and universities, this federal funding will help students overcome obstacles, excel in the classroom and earn their degree.”

Menendez agreed.

“Education is the great equalizer, which is why it is so important to struggling families that their children have access to a quality higher education,” he said. “Students who have to overcome the most to get to college too often fall victim to a lack of support once they are there. This is an investment to ensure that these students reach their potential, which is important for the future of our state and our economy.”

The grant covers 58 percent of Project Connections’ annual program costs. Non-federal funding sources support the remaining 42 percent – $216,528 – of the first-year costs,.

Project Connections is a competitive program, limited to 160 students who have learning disabilities and are able to do college work. The program provides intensive support, including group and individual tutoring, counseling and a special orientation program. In addition, students take two courses: “Strategies for Success,” and a modified version of “Student Success 101.”

In “Strategies for Success,” students learn to understand their disability, develop a career plan, and learn how technology can help them overcome their disability. They use the adapted technology lab, which is one of the best in the state.

“Student Success 101” is a freshman course at Middlesex that teaches time management, study skills and strategies to be successful at the College.

Project Connections has been continually funded since 1984; it is extremely well known throughout New Jersey and the region.

One of the many successful alumni of the program is LeDerick Horne, a real estate investor, playwright, advocate for people with disabilities and a spoken word poet. He is also board chair of Project Eye-to-Eye, a national nonprofit that provides mentoring programs for students.

“Project Connections is a national model for disability services,” he said. “The whole country looks at this program as the standard of excellence. I am very pleased that it is funded again. It allows for people to realize their potential and take advantage of everything that higher learning has to offer.”

Horne has a CD of spoken word poetry out, and he is finishing a second.

“I learned how to write in Project Connections,” he said. “I am one of hundreds who got to realize their dream because of the support I got from that program.”


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