It's no secret that Vanderbilt is one of the best schools in the county and that their star logo is totally cute, but what I didn't realize is how much they know about and contribute to the study and betterment of people with Williams Syndrome.
I honestly felt like we stuck gold when we met Tammy Day and she let us know that access to science was a possibility for Chloe. Like or not, she's a science geek. (I love that about her actually). Once Chloe realized that Vanderbilt offers a study abroad course in Brazil that covers volcanoes -- she was all in! It isn't known if Chloe will actually study abroad, but I feel like if anyone can make it happen, it's our little ball of curiosity!
Next Steps is in transition right now because they've just been awarded a 2.5 million dollar grant that will allow them the expand their enrollment, duration and (fingers crossed) offer on campus housing. It's an exciting time to become involved in this program!!
We met with Tammy Day and she was kind enough to answer I'd say close to the first fifty questions we had right off the bat. (Okay I admit it, Chloe gets a touch of her curiosity from me).
Our first question was about the curriculum itself. Because Next Steps has a week-long mandatory orientation for the students it accepts, they are able to engage in a person centered approach from the very beginning. Students take next steps courses, but also audit courses with their typical peers. Vocational research, internships and training is a large part of the program and to date that have an astounding 86% employment rate for graduates.
Chloe hasn't made a career decision just yet and at 17 years old I don't think she should have to, but I do think a series of internships concentrated around her and her interests will help her understand what she wants to spend her life doing.
We walked around campus and Chloe joined some Next Steps students in an art class. They all got to know each other and one of the students asked me if she'd be attending and I replied that it would be up to her. He said, "Gosh. I hope so. I love her already." That was a moment I still think about when I wonder if I can handle an empty nest. To those of you out there who are wondering "Can my child attend college?" I'd encourage you to consider the summer institute at Next Steps to test the waters. Here's more information about this opportunity.
We hung out in the courtyard by the commons after visiting art class and some of the students were talking about boycotting Wendy's. Chloe walked over and asked them questions and learned a little about consumer education in the process. She's not an expert but she now realizes that her choice in where to shop impacts businesses. In my honest opinion, these are the kind of activities that Chloe needs to fully be included in the world around her (and it wasn't even scheduled!!)
We left Tammy Day's office knowing what I'm about to announce -- that Vanderbilt is Chloe's top choice!
We took our own campus tour and found the stadium, the bookstore (yay they have a Starbucks) and scoped out the family t-shirt situation.
We briefly stopped at the ice rink to glimpse what could be Chloe's new home rink.
On our way out of Nashville, we stopped at Gigi's to grab some cupcakes to savor during the eight hour car ride home! (Chloe made me promise to include this tidbit in the story as well as the photograph - she LOVES her sweets!!).
Vanderbilt has been wonderful in following up with us and invited Chloe to PreVU day in July. They've sent Chloe many different brochures and us all the financial aid information.
Chloe has been able to look at available majors and identify subject areas she's interested in. Although Chloe wouldn't earn a degree, she would be able to audit classes from different majors.
It's easy to see why it's among the best!
We've told Chloe that she will have to go through the application process and she says she's ready!
I certainly hope Chloe's dreams come true, but if Vanderbilt doesn't choose her -- Chloe will bloom wherever she's planted ;)