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Heartland Community College expands program to serve students with learning challenges

Kori Folkerts, Heartland Community College’s associate director of student access and accommodation services, and student Nickolaus Griffin discussed how the school's HALO program helps students with learning challenges.
Megan Spoerlein
Kori Folkerts, left, Heartland Community College’s associate director of student access and accommodation services, and student Nickolaus Griffin are excited about how the school's HALO program helps students with learning challenges.

Heartland Community College is expanding its Heartland Academy for Learning Opportunities (HALO) program starting with the fall 2023 semester.

The program focuses on providing a college experience for students ages 18 to 28 with intellectual and developmental disabilities as well as other learning challenges.

The two-year program currently provides coursework involving cooking skills, money skills, reading, computer technology, social development, community awareness, health and wellness, independent living and math.

The goal of the program is to help students with independent living skills reach their goals outside of the HALO program, said Kori Folkerts, Heartland’s associate director of student access and accommodation services.

Nickolaus Griffin is a second-year HALO student from Bloomington who has benefited from the program.

“I’ve honestly learned a lot because coming in, I didn’t know a thing or two, but now I know a lot of things, like how to cook now because when I took the cooking class last year, I finally knew how to cook one or two new things,” Griffin said. “And now with independent learning skills, I’m becoming more independent, like grocery shopping, how to pay taxes and everything.”

Funded by a Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) Innovative Bridge and Transition grant, over $200,000 will be used to create a third year for the program to provide students with four additional courses: success education, professionalism, transition to college/basic skills and social-emotional development.

Folkerts said the third year of the HALO program will help students and their families by providing guidance and a solution to the question of what is next after finishing school.

“This third year would help answer the question, 'What’s next?'" Folkerts said. “So, a lot of the time our students graduate from HALO and then they kind of have to determine, 'What am I going to do next?' Some of our students take credit courses, some of our students who already have jobs maybe look at excelling their jobs further, so this grant will offer us the opportunity to assist through that process.”

Folkerts added that college is for any student who wants to go.

“College is not a certain look, it’s not a certain style,” Folkerts said. “Anybody can attend college as long as you provide opportunities for students to excel and be successful."

To learn more or to schedule a HALO college visit, go to heartland.edu/halo.

Megan Spoerlein was a reporting intern at WGLT.