Center for Students with Disabilities

 Project HIGHER

Every year thousands of students graduate from high school with the dream of continuing their education in college. Unfortunately, for some students with severe disabilities this means the end of their learning and education. Due to their extensive level of needs, existing support services do not provide the intensive wrap around services needed to be able to attend and be successful in post-secondary education. Beginning Fall 2015, El Paso Community College (EPCC) has implemented a pilot program, under the Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD), Project HIGHER, to address this need.

Project HIGHER is an innovative program that assists individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (ages 18-25) in El Paso County to complete a level-one certificate at EPCC and find employment in their area of study. This Fall 2015 semester, six students with intellectual and developmental disabilities are enrolled in a certificate program.

Project HIGHER is a unique supported educational model based upon supported employment models which includes collaboration between EPCC, CSD, Master of Rehabilitation Counseling Program at the University of Texas at El Paso, Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), Volar Center for Independent Living, Education Service Center-Region 19 and other community partners to help participants succeed in post-secondary education and ultimately, achieve employment. Project HIGHER partners collaborated on this innovative project given the challenges traditionally faced by students with disabilities wanting to attend EPCC and gain employment in El Paso County.

 The Educational Coach Model

The Educational Coach works one-on-one with the student in a post-secondary training setting and gradually reduces the time spent with the student as they become better adjusted and more independent. The Educational Coach can assist a student depending on the student's individual needs with any activities including but not limited to the following.

A) Pre-Planning

  • Assist student to become acquainted with college setting to reach a level of comfort.
  • Ensure the student meets with the CSD counselor and understands and applies for accommodations and counseling services available including the use of an Educational Coach.

B) Academic Coaching

  • Explore the learning style of the student and guide them in understanding themselves as learners.
  • Teach and encourage planning, organization, study strategies and time management skills needed to complete course assignments and pass exams.
  • Teach the student to take notes and use assistive technology and accommodations such as alternative test site, recorders and note­ takers.
  • Provide daily review sessions to ensure student is properly prepared for assignments, quizzes and exams.

C) Address Self-Advocacy and Self-Determination Skills

  • Model and encourage student to advocate for themselves in all needed areas including accommodations or challenges that may arise.
  • Model, encourage and facilitate communication with instructors and EPCC staff as needed.
  • Encourage student to communicate and participate in class by asking questions and interacting with professors and fellow students.
  • Model and encourage appropriate interpersonal skills to build positive relationships and make friends on campus.

 More Information

All participants must be consumers of the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS). A new cohort of students will be selected for the Fall semester 2016. Interested students must complete an application, interview and be selected to participate.

Participants must be interested in completing a level­ one certificate and finding employment in their area of study. Accommodations and support services are provided. Modifications to the curriculum are not provided.

For more information, contact Rick Razo, Project Manager at or 831-2739.


Click here to view Flyer (PDF)