Today, we’re sharing the story of Louisiana State University at Alexandria’s SPERO program, a program funded in part by a grant from our Foundation. The acronym stands for “Special Program for the Enhancement of Resources and Opportunities” for students with developmental disabilities. It also a Latin word that means “hope.”

There are thousands of young people across Louisiana with developmental or learning disabilities who, despite graduating high school, are not eligible to enroll for a traditional college education. Many students with developmental disabilities live with their parents or in assisted care settings after reaching the age of 18. In those cases, it’s often difficult – if not impossible – to send them to another region of the state for college. There are handful of programs across the state that connect these students to higher education, but before SPERO, there was none in Central Louisiana.

Thanks to local parents and some dedicated staff, SPERO has rapidly become reality, enrolling its first cohort in Fall 2022. The program integrates its participants into campus life with other students, and those enrolled get important experience:

  • Auditing college-level classes;
  • Taking special program classes designed to improve their daily living skills, interpersonal skills, and employment skills;
  • Participating in on-campus events and activities; and
  • Receiving vocational (work) training either on campus or at approved off-campus venues.

Research has found that young adults with developmental disabilities who participate in similar programs are more likely to be employed and earn higher wages that those who don’t. They also experience higher levels of satisfaction and report a higher quality of life. All of these things are essential factors in the overall social determinants of health.

This video is special. You’ll get to see several of the first cohort of kids reading their acceptance letters, and having their lives changed by three words: “Congratulations! You’re in!”

We join educators, administrators and parents in wishing the first SPERO cohort success, and we can’t wait to cheer them on!

Michael Tipton
BCBSLA Foundation President &
Head of Community Relations



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