First cohorts complete Clark Inclusive Scholars Program

Students recognized during BGSU Firelands graduate celebration

By Patrick Pfanner

When Dalton Lock graduated from high school in 2019, he didn’t think college was for him. But that changed when he was introduced to the Clark Inclusive Scholars Program at BGSU Firelands, an individualized post-secondary certificate program for students with intellectual disabilities.

Lock and 10 other students from the first two cohorts received their certificates this spring, signaling their completion of the program.

Clark Inclusive Scholars Program students gather before the BGSU Firelands graduate celebration with career services coordinator Liz Laurer (far left) and program director Kyle Closen
Clark Inclusive Scholars Program students gather before the BGSU Firelands graduate celebration with career services coordinator Liz Laurer (far left) and program director Kyle Closen

“When I graduated high school, I wasn’t initially interested,” Lock said, noting that changed after a conversation with the program's director, Kyle Closen.

The positive outlooks, warm smiles, desire to volunteer and drive to learn among these Clark Inclusive Scholar students will be missed by the campus community.

“It felt so great to see these students finish the program,” Closen said. “To see all of the growth they had from the beginning to now is amazing.”

Funded by the Clark Family Foundation, the program's first two cohorts included:

  • Megan Beals
  • Kaleb Crooks
  • Andrew Dodd
  • Ryan Hilsmeier
  • Emily Lezon
  • Dalton Lock
  • Andrew Menner
  • Christopher Ortolani
  • Khloe Schlottag
  • Jonathan Stephenson
  • William Tyler

The Clark Inclusive Scholars Program began in 2019. To earn a certificate, students need to successfully complete four semesters at the BGSU Firelands campus in Huron, Ohio. They attend class, gain work experience, receive individualized support and socialize with college peers.

“They have access to the same learning environments and student life activities as all other BGSU Firelands students,” Closen said. “The biggest piece is the social aspect. They become friends and build relationships.”

The new program, and its new students, were introduced to the campus community in August 2019. Since then, students say they feel welcome and are glad they decided to enroll.

“I was coming out of high school looking at colleges when a teacher told me about the Clark program,” student Megan Beals said. “I checked it out and fell in love with it and with the people and friends I’ve made.”

Like all BGSU Firelands students, Clark students commute to the campus. Whether they live nearby, like Khloe Schlottag, who resides in Sandusky, or further out like Beals from North Ridgeville, they say the commute is worth it.

“I was so excited on my first day,” said student Emily Lezon, who commutes from Vermilion. “I’ve just enjoyed all of my years here.”

Closen said many students learn to find comfort in communicating with others and gain confidence doing so. The chance to learn and grow together helps students integrate with the campus community.

“I learned more about myself in this program,” Beals said. “I found out I can be very personable. As someone who didn’t experience this before, it’s been great.”

Lock said he was interested in understanding the different ways people learn. Schlottag said she felt at home with her fellow students and enjoyed her art and education classes.

“I learned that all of us can do anything we set our mind to regardless of disability,” Lezon said. “People with disabilities can go to college, too.”

The program helped each student grow professionally and personally.

“I learned I’m a people person and I enjoy making new friends,” said Lezon, who worked in the dean’s office, registration office and library during her time at the college.

Beals worked in the college computer lab and had a yearlong experience at the Cleveland Art Museum.

“I learned to speak up for myself,” Beals said. “I took public speaking classes and learned that I have a voice to use when I need help.”

Lock said he learned to push his abilities further, and did so by taking computer classes to gain a broader understanding of software used in office environments, such as Microsoft Word and Excel.

“I’ve had a nice experience,” Schlottag said of her time in the program. “I’ve enjoyed making new friends.”

The Clark Inclusive Scholar students were among those who crossed the stage during the BGSU Firelands graduate celebration in April. They received their certificates in front of family and friends.

“Just to see the confidence they’ve built in their abilities is great,” Closen said. “That social aspect of the program — becoming friends and gaining independence with new skills — is what we’re looking for. Those friendships aren’t always something you can plan for, but you hope, and it’s been great.”

Updated: 07/22/2022 04:20PM