At first glance, a group of young people walking to a computer room at Florida International University, look like a typical group of college students. That’s because they are… they just learn differently.

And like most students, a good portion of their day is spent in front of the computer.

Jacob Anderson and seven other students with intellectual disabilities, an IQ below 70, are auditing classes at FIU through the ‘Panther LIFE’ Program. LIFE stands for Learning Is For Everyone.

So what are their goals after four years, asked CBS4’s Cynthia Demos.

“Help kids with disabilities learn how to read,” responded Jacob Anderson.

“Want to study to be a Vet assistant or work with childcare,” said Sandra Alonso.

College is more than just getting an education and hitting the keyboard all the time. It’s also about getting the college experience.

And the group agreed that the best part of college life so far is going to the football games.

“I saved seats for almost everybody… that’ awesome, it was amazing,” said Jacob.

It’s especially exciting for Jacob because his mother is an FIU alum. She acknowledged that she never thought Jacob would be able to go to college, let alone a college of 46,000 students. So when she learned about the program.

“First I cried, then was happy, then ran and filled out the paper work, then I thought there should be more of this,” she told Demos.

Jacob went through the interview process and was accepted.

“We are looking for somebody who really wants to be here,” said Jill Brookner with Miami-Dade County Public Schools.  “It’s a happiness and I think they feel  more a part of that world.”

The Panther LIFE group is just here to work hard, blend in and experience college just like all the other students.

“Friends are like family, your brothers and sisters, that’s all that matters. My brothers and sisters are right here,” exclaimed Jacob.

The Panther LIFE program is funded through grants.

Comments (2)
  1. Jimbo99 says:

    SMH, I know an individual that is 1 math course away from getting a dual degree at Daytona College, they killed his financial aid this semester and work-study program in a department/program in computer graphics that was dissolved. While I’m all for a program that uplifts the mentally challenged, why penalize others and hinder their careers ?

  2. Chucky says:

    Good point, Jimbo’, and I hope the state didn’t usurp that program up in Volusia County in favor or this one on the heels of a one-for-one cost austerity program..

    I work for FIU, and although a lot of people think I’m mentally challenged, I actually had to pay to get my ‘Journalism degree over here. In fact I’m still paying.


    Be advised, though; most degrees are over-rated. You gotta’ be better than just a degree.