New Texas A&M Aggie ACHIEVE Program Gives Special Needs Students College Experience

This year Texas A&M started the state's only 4-year, residential, inclusive college program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It's called Aggie ACHIEVE (Academic Courses in Higher Inclusive Education and Vocational Experiences).

"If they can go onto post secondary education and get any kind of education at a college level, they are more likely to get a job," Olivia Hester, Ph.D. said.

Hester is Program Director for Aggie ACHIEVE. "They are determined to learn campus. They are determined to go to class by themselves. They want to be like every Texas A&M student walking this campus."

When 27-year old Courtney Osburn of Allen walks the campus in College Station, she feels like she's home. "It feels like my family is here in spirit," Osburn said as she walked to lunch. "Like all of them."

Osburn is one of five students in the first class of Aggie ACHIEVE. She grew up visiting Texas A&M.

"Well, I went to A&M. Her dad went to A&M. Her grandfather is class of '54," Beca Osburn, Courtney's mother said. Courtney's great grandfather was an Aggie in the 1920s. "We have a very long line of A&M graduates."

Until this year, there wasn't a path for Courtney to continue the family tradition.

"This was when she was born in the I.C.U.," Beca Osburn said looking at old photos. Osburn said there were complications during Courtney's delivery. "It basically cut off oxygen and caused damage to the left side of her brain."

Courtney grew up with intellectual and development delays, but that never stopped her drive to succeed.

"This past December we were sitting right here and she said, Mom, I want to go to A&M," Beca Osburn recalled. "Naturally, I said well that's a great idea. I don't know baby."

Months later they got an invitation to apply for the new Aggie ACHIEVE program. "My baby's going to college," Beca Osburn said with a smile. "At A&M!"

Courtney is studying kinesiology. She wants to be a sports trainer at A&M. "I also want other schools to see how special we are," Osburn said. "How intelligent we are."

Aggie ACHIEVE students attend mainstream classes, as well as their own classes with curriculum to help them acclimate to college life, and eventually, the workforce.

"You always think independence is freedom, and that's part of it, but it's also maturing in life," Osburn said. When asked if going to college and being away from home was hard, she answered matter-of-factly. "Life is hard. Period. Everything is hard...you only get one chance to conquer your dreams."

For more information on Aggie ACHIEVE and how to apply for next year's class, click here.

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