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SRU expands 'I Can Do It, You Can Do It'

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University has received a $313,176 grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Rehabilitation Services Administration to expand its student-led "I Can Do It, You Can Do It" mentoring program for youth with disabilities. The grant will provide three specific activities to assist youth with disabilities transition from school to adult life.

SRU will introduce job and life-skills training, animal care, regular community events focusing on physical activity and a summer camp for adolescents with and without disabilities.

More than 120 SRU student mentors lead the I Can Do It, You Can Do It program currently by providing weekly physical activity sessions for those 5-21. Students conduct workouts at the University's Robert N. Aebersold Student Recreation Center and the Grove City and Butler YMCAs.

"The focus of this grant will be to help young people with disabilities achieve greater independence, mobility and social skills," said Robert Arnhold, professor of physical education and program director.

"The three-year grant will enable the program to become a more visible force in the community," said Elizabeth Kemeny, faculty member in the Adapted Physical Activity Program who will coordinate the grant.

Arnhold said SRU plans to offer regular activity sessions in communities as well as special events for youth with disabilities to encourage interaction and develop social skills. Jody Gulish, an SRU adapted physical activity graduate student from Grove City, will serve as student coordinator for the pre-vocational training. She said students will begin to teach animal care and facility maintenance at SRU's Storm Harbor Equestrian Center, which has 12 horses on site.

"There will be job training for young adults and adolescents with autism and other disabilities. We're also going to be working on social skills. You need to learn how to punch a timecard, what kind of clothes to wear to a job - valuable life skills" Gulish said.

Andrea Harnet and Angie Long, SRU adapted physical activity graduate students from Erie and Indiana, Pa., will help coordinated activities. "We plan to offer weekly and bimonthly events everywhere between Franklin and Cranberry - swim nights, dance, zumba and snow sledding," Long said.

The third component of the grant includes a one-week, day camp offered on campus in the summer for youth with and without disabilities, Arnhold said.

The I Can Do It, You Can Do It program is a federally funded initiative of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Disability. In the traditional program, college students are matched with children with disabilities. Each pair participates in physical activity after school for eight consecutive weeks. At the conclusion of the program, successful mentees achieve the President's Active Lifestyle Award, Arnhold said.

In 2008, Slippery Rock University was selected to help launch nine new "I Can Do It" sites across the country and distribute grants of up to $15,000 to each new site. The program, which is part of SRU's adapted physical activity minor and new graduate program, also includes nutrition education. One of its goals is reducing the medical expenses associated with a sedentary lifestyle such as diabetes and high blood pressure, Arnhold said. "The program offers healthier lifestyle advice and terrific experience for our students who want to work in the field after they graduate," he said. Slippery Rock University is in its third year of the national I Can Do It Project currently funded by the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.