Collaborative Work-Readiness Program with Opportunities Unlimited Graduates Nine

May 7, 2014  |  by Michael Freedman

On Thursday, May 1, nine adults with intellectual and other developmental disabilities were presented with certificates of completion from the Transition Readiness for Employment in the Community (TREC) program, a collaborative initiative between Niagara University’s College of Education and Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara. A luncheon was held on the Niagara University campus to honor the graduates.

The TREC program is designed as a university-community partnership focused on the integration of people with disabilities. The program’s curriculum takes place over two semesters with a focus on exposure to work-readiness skills, technology, literacy development, career exploration and self-advocacy, constructed around services and resources that are available for adults with developmental disabilities.

“This is what universities should be doing,” commented the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., president of Niagara University. “Our willingness to work directly with the community to provide partnership programs that have these types of results, and to use the campus to encompass integrated services for people at Opportunities Unlimited extends to the experiences that Niagara offers to its own undergraduate and graduate students as well.”

Dr. Alice Kozen, associate professor of education, ties the TREC program to authentic experiences for graduate students in NU’s teacher education programs.

“This is truly an example of active and engaged learning for participants, graduate students and faculty. My students have said that you can read a textbook, but the opportunity to work with these individuals really opened their eyes and provided them with valuable real-life experiences,” said Dr. Kozen.

Niagara University offers undergraduate and graduate programs in developmental disabilities.

The graduate program is offered online and focuses on the specialization in leadership that is needed among agencies which serve adults.

“As I meet the university students who are involved with the TREC program, I see the future leaders in the field of habilitation, education and community services,” stated Kellie Spychalski, executive director and CEO of Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara. “We are so pleased to have this partnership with Niagara University so that our individuals may benefit from the expertise of faculty, skills of college students, and the resources of this campus.”

More than 100 graduate students have been involved in the TREC Program over the last seven years.

Kimberly Groff, a graduate student in the College of Education, coordinated the program and served as the instructor this academic year.

To learn more about Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, please visit