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Augustana FRIENDSLink Now an Agency of Sioux Empire United Way

SIOUX FALLS – Dr. Julie Ashworth, Assistant Professor of Education, said today the Augustana FRIENDSLink program has been accepted as a full partner agency of the Sioux Empire United Way.

“I am thrilled,” said Dr. Ashworth, who founded FRIENDSLink two years ago on the Augustana campus. Bailey Morris, a special education major who graduated magnum cum laude this spring, was the project’s first director.

“Bailey has done a fantastic job as more than seventy (70) Augustana students from all majors are involved in the program,” said Dr. Ashworth.

The new student directors are Melissa Roth and Kyle Roth.Dr. Julie Ashworth

Until now, the program has been supported by a United Way Community Impact Grant and other assorted grants. It will now be fully funded, subject to renewal annually.

The Friends Community Education Program, now Augustana FRIENDSLink, was developed to provide young adults with disabilities opportunities for continuing educational and social growth. Augustana FRIENDSLink provides various small group and one-on-one educational and recreational opportunities through a partnership with Augustana students. FRIENDSLink provides an avenue for adults with disabilities to establish friendships on an ongoing basis. The program focuses on three goals:

(1) Provide specialized educational and recreational programs for adults with disabilities.Bailey Morris

(2) Provide additional support to people with disabilities so they can participate successfully in the community.

(3) Increase the number of college students who participate in FRIENDSLink through reverse integration.

FRIENDSLink offers a variety of small group events each month, ranging from 1.5 to 4 hours in length. Individualized opportunities are also an option, with a list of community events and Augustana activities to choose from. Participants are also given the opportunity to make personal requests to attend other events with an “Augie buddy.”

For many people with disabilities, participation in everyday community events and personal recreation choices would not be possible without assistance. The opportunity for natural friendships is also problematical for individuals with disabilities without a support system.

FRIENDSLink establishes an avenue for adults with disabilities to establish friendships on an ongoing basis. FRIENDSLink also supports participants in order for them to have a positive and enriching experience when he/she attends a community activity.

Every FRIENDSLink opportunity is offered each session to Augustana students in an effort to increase integration while educating the non-disabled community about individuals with disabilities. The reverse integration opportunities have been highly successful, as the majority of events have had more Augustana participants than individuals with disabilities.

“This program has enriched the college students and the campus in powerful ways,” said Dr. Ashworth.

Pictured above, right: Dr. Julie Ashworth and former program director Bailey Morris.