George Mason University

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Mason LIFE program makes a lasting impact for adults with disabilities

December 9, 2016   /   by Kristen Dalton

Sean completed the Mason LIFE program in 2015. Photo provided.

Down syndrome didn’t stop Sean Cross from pursuing his dreams of becoming a meteorologist. Cross, who completed George Mason University’s Mason LIFE program in May 2015, was recently featured in a social media campaign titled “Project: Just Like You.”

Project: Just Like You circulates images and stories of children with disabilities to showcase what makes them, well, just like you. The project tells individual stories about children with disabilities or diseases such as cancer, diabetes and developmental disorders. It’s an opportunity for parents to share stories to help educate and eliminate stigmas.

Thanks to the Mason LIFE program, a postsecondary program for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Sean currently works full time for a local meteorologist and lives near the Fairfax Campus with four other Mason LIFE alumni.

“We showcase children enjoying hobbies and their family. Our hope is that by doing so, we give a voice to all individuals with special needs,” said Molly Korte, founder of Project: Just Like You. “By default, we also break down fear, barriers, prejudices and walls that still very much exist for children with special needs. “

Sean’s mother, Brenda Cross, wanted him to socialize and obtain an education from an early age. The Mason LIFE program helped him gain the skills he needed to live independently.

“We didn’t want Sean to end up sitting at home, living in our basement,” she said. “Sean lives in a townhouse with roommates, takes the bus and works full time. He wouldn’t have been able to achieve this without the Mason LIFE program.”

Mason LIFE has a special partnership with the Department of Education that gives Mason undergraduate and graduate students hands-on learning experience with adults with disabilities.

“It’s a mutually beneficial program. I think this is the key to the program and why it is so great,” said Brenda.

The parents of the students in the program collaborated to make campus housing an option for their children.

“We all invested in houses close to campus for our children to live in during and after graduating from the program,” said Brenda.

Mason education students work as resident assistants in these homes and develop activities for the Mason LIFE alumni and students.

“The RAs organize activities such as Super Bowl parties, seeing movies and doing everything most 20 year olds are doing,” said Brenda.

 For her son, Mason LIFE was a game changer.

“The program gave him the tools to pursue his dream,” said Brenda.

Sean works for a local meteorologist. Photo provided.