JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) Historically, students with special needs often do not continue their education past high school.
One program at East Tennessee State University is working to change that and give these young adults a shot at a bright future and a career.
Our crews captured the surprise of a lifetime Wednesday as Will Gott learned some incredible news.
When he came to ETSU’s campus Wednesday morning, he thought he was just taking a tour.
“We knew about it,” said Will’s mom Tracy Gott. “Today was a surprise for my son, Will.”
The “tour” turned out to be something much more for him.
Instead, officials with ETSU granted Will full admission into the university as a part of the school’s Access Program. Will gets to be a full-time student this fall.
“Access ETSU is an inclusive higher education program for individuals with intellectual disabilities. The program is designed to be inclusive, meaning they have access to the whole entire undergrad course catalog just like any other student at ETSU,” said Access ETSU director, Dawn Rowe.
The Access students are able to attend the same classes as their peers with guidance and help from the university.
When asked why he wanted to come to ETSU, Will Gott responded, “Because I want to learn!”
President Dr. Brian Noland was there for the surprise Wednesday and said giving students like Will this opportunity makes the entire campus a better place.
“The chance to see people make memories and be a part of something bigger is the reason why we are here,” said Dr. Noland.
Will has one clear goal at ETSU.
“The only thing I want to study was theatre,” said Will.
Wednesday he proved has a head start, and no stage fright. He jumped at the opportunity moments after his acceptance into ETSU to perform Alan Jackson’s song “Little Bitty” in celebration. His rendition was met with cheers from the crowd gathered for his special day.
“This means the world to us. Every opportunity that we have had has been through ETSU. So, for him to get to be a student through this program has been such a blessing,” said Tracy Gott.
Access ETSU recently received a $2.5 million grant to expand their program, which means this fall they are going from two students to fourteen. Will’s family is more than grateful that he is one of them.
“He needs a purpose, he wants a purpose in life. Which is what this program at ETSU is going to offer him,” said Tracy.