Nineteen UofM Students Complete TigerLIFE Program

May 19, 2017 - Nineteen students recently celebrated their completion of the University of Memphis Institute on Disability's (UMID) two-year transition program "TigerLIFE" (Learning Independence Fostering Employment/Education), which prepares young adults with intellectual disabilities for independence and gainful employment. Dr. Chrisann Schiro-Geist, director of UMID, presided over the ceremony.

Only 263 of the more than 4,700 degree-granting institutions in the U.S. offer post-secondary education programs for students with intellectual disabilities. The TigerLIFE program is one of the most successful in the country, placing 76 percent of its students in competitive employment (earning the same hourly rate as non-disabled employees).

The students include: Kimberly Beck, Tarious Beckley, Daniel Burton, John Chester, Katy Crowe, Kristen Ferkol, Taylor Fletcher, Matthew Gammon, Jair Hardin, Faith Hodge, Christina Lawrence, Mallory McFarland, Darnell McNealy, Paul Ramson, Thomas Reynolds, Erick Townsel, Sarah Van Gilder, Charles Wallace and Reginald Wilson.

TigerLIFE was launched in 2012, coming into full operations in 2013 as a Transitional Program for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID), established by the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) of 2008. Prior to this act, students could only qualify for federal financial aid if they were full-time students in a university or college. TigerLIFE students take life skills classes at UMID as well as inclusion classes at the UofM with their non-disabled peers.

Before TPSID programs, individuals with intellectual disabilities were rarely employed at or above the minimum wage. Many stayed at home with their families or entered sheltered workshops. The goal of TigerLIFE is to prepare and place students in employment positions that are suited to their interests and pay more than minimum wage. Most students who complete the program earn at least nine dollars an hour. Twenty-three employers in Memphis, including Marshall's, FedEx, Superlo Foods, UPS and the University of Memphis, have hired former TigerLIFE students. For more information, visit https://www.memphis.edu/tigerlife/.

Contact: Dr. Chrisann Schiro-Geist