Students gearing up for Pacer LIFE

Like many high school seniors, Evan Allgood is looking forward to going off to college in the fall.

“I’m excited and happy,” said Allgood, a North Augusta High School student, who is part of a new program at the University of South Carolina Aiken called Pacer LIFE.  “I want to be independent.”

 On March 1, college representatives visited North Augusta High School to welcome four students including Allgood into the new program. Pacer LIFE is designed for students with intellectual disabilities.

 The two-year program will give them the college experience of living in dorms, working, taking academic classes as well as other classes, that Melissa Martin, the Pacer LIFE director, calls adulting 101.

“The whole point of Pacer Life is to focus on academics, independent living and job skills. So, our students will take one credit of USC Aiken coursework per semester,” she said.

Those classes could be anything from yoga to Communications 101. Allgood said he’s interested in taking art when he attends. His mother, Kathleen Allgood, said he loves creating on his computer and is interested in graphic design.

In addition to academics, they’ll have specialized coursework that includes cooking, doing the laundry and banking skills.

They will receive job training. At first, the training will be on campus, but they will transition into the field. By the end of the two years, the goal is for the students to be working 20 hours a week. 

When they complete the program, they will receive an employment credential, Martin said, and they will take part in the graduation ceremonies with other USC Aiken students.

As residential students, they will have a roommate, and they will be assigned a life resident, a degree seeking student, who will be there to provide “support overnight and on the weekend,” she said.

“This is a very exciting day. We’re thrilled to have these students join us in the fall. It’s been a long time in the planning and organization process,” said Judy Beck, dean of the university’s school of education.

North Augusta High School was one of three stops in Aiken County Wednesday to welcome the new students. Nineteen students will be part of the first cohort. Students will come from other parts of South Carolina as well as Georgia, Beck said.

“USC Aiken’s Pacer LIFE is only the sixth such program in South Carolina and joins nine other programs in Georgia,” according to a news release.

Providing independent living is a key part of the program as most adults with intellectual disabilities are unable to live on their own.

 “Nationally, only 18% of adults with intellectual disabilities are employed, and of these, most earn a salary of only about $11,000 a year. Most cannot afford to live independently—and may not have the skills to live independently,” the release continued.

Charmain Z. Brackett is the publisher of Augusta Good News. Reach her at Have headlines delivered to your inbox by subscribing to the newsletter here.

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