Step Forward Program Soars with Record Enrollment

Thursday, December 19, 2013

In an atmosphere recently lamenting the decline of enrollment in the state’s largest public college system, Gateway Community College has emerged as the only Connecticut institution with increased enrollment since 2010. The past year and a half has boasted the expansion of many existing programs since the grand opening of Gateway’s new downtown campus. Ones such program experiencing an influx of enrollment presently is the Step Forward Program. Step Forward is designed to assist students with mild cognitive disabilities assimilate into academic life. Enrollment has increased in the last year to 23 from 17 students, according to Program Director Jaime French. 

“We have students enrolled in the Phase I and II program from all over the state…from Westport, Stamford and Madison & Cromwell. They are all doing very well..” The program is divided into two phases. Step Forward I is a ten month transitional program geared at assisting young adults to focus on interpersonal communication skills, vocational exploration and workplace readiness. “…Essentially it prepares them to begin taking classes at Gateway” says French.

Students who complete the program go on to Step Forward II, which also includes the High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder Program. Students in year II focus on their career objectives and are also required to do an intensive internship within their specific field of study. Currently the students are participating in internships with The Beardsley Zoo, Barnes & Noble in Milford, Ashlar Village in Wallingford, Helping Hands in West Haven and the Bruce Museum in Greenwich among others. The students are given specific responsibilities and are supervised to provide them with support in their ongoing progress.

Students work their internship hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays and attend the classroom portion of the program on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Students in Step Forward I take a life skills and employment readiness curriculum as well as engaging in a higher education readiness component. Once completed the Step Forward II students have a wide range of academic opportunities such as self paced learning computer modules like Metrix Learning and may earn a certificate of completion which is recognized and valued by employers. They also take developmental classes and some place directly into college level courses. The program also ensures that year II students are fully taking advantage of campus wide resources such as the Tutoring Center by having a high level of case management.

Aside from classroom studies, students are encouraged to get involved in social activities on campus and take part in various college clubs. The program is an excellent way to ensure that students with challenges have the mobility and self advocacy tools to achieve their scholastic goals at Gateway Community College. For additional information on the Step Forward Program please contact program director Jaime French at (203) 285-2505 or