NORMAN, Oklahoma - In the past, high school graduation marked the end of many opportunities for children with intellectual disabilities. As their peers went on to college, trade school, or work, those in special education classes were often left behind.

A new program at the University of Oklahoma aims to provide more opportunities for those students through the Sooner Works program. 

For parents of children with special needs like Sarah Soell, this program is a dream come true.

“When she was a baby, the first thought was ‘is she ever going to have a job? Will she ever get married? Is she going to live with us for the rest of her life?’ And those were the first things you think of when you have a child with Down Syndrome,” Soell said. “And now, the opportunities are endless.”

Students will live on OU’s Norman Campus, take classes and participate in extracurricular activities. They will also work in community internships during the four year certificate program. 

“That’s what gets me excited, the fact that she has something to do after high school and that she’s not going to be siting at home by herself, but will be able to interact with her peers, possibly roommate with some of her friends from high school and still get to have that educational component,” Soell said. 

Similar programs exist across the country, but Soell says Oklahoma was one of the last states to get on board.

The cost of the program is comparable to tuition, room and board for a traditional student at about $30,000 per year for in state students - a cost Soel says she is willing to pay for her daughter to be a Sooner. 

Applications are open for high school graduates between the ages of 18 and 26 through June 15th. Click here for more information.