Real Achievement Matters (RAM)

Inclusive Post-Secondary Education for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities at West Chester University of PA

The RAM initiative is a program at West Chester University, bringing students with intellectual disabilities, ages 18-24, to campus in very small numbers, to participate in a two-year inclusive post-secondary education experience. The RAM initiative is ‘inclusive’ in that RAM students learn and interact with all students, faculty, staff and administrators on campus, not in segregated environments. The students take classes on either an Audit or For Credit basis and have a non-traditional application/admissions process. RAM Initiative students are full- time students, have full privileges of the university, and are eligible for Pell Grants and Federal Financial Work Study programs (if financially eligible by filling our a FASFA form).

Who: Students with intellectual disabilities are those who “have significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and in adaptive behaviors which covers many everyday social and practical skills” (AAIDD, 2017). These students come to the college experience without a traditional academic diploma, nor standardized test scores. We focus on students whose ages are between 18 and 24 as of the first day of the Fall semester of classes that they begin the program. These students have completed at least 4 years of high school and have been in Special Education and have had an Individualized Education Program during their school years.

RAM Initiative Background

When: In Fall 2018 we brought in two pilot students (commuter) who went through the program on a trial basis to help to tweak the process. In Fall of 2019, one student joined the program as a residential student.


  1. Individuals with intellectual disabilities have better employment outcomes when they attend post-secondary educational experiences.
  2. Inclusive opportunities with similar age peers provides a positive quality of life experience and ‘finding’ yourself, just like all other students coming to college.
  3. Independent living skills are practiced in real life settings.

Vision: Provide inclusive post-secondary education to students with intellectual disabilities, who meet certain criteria, in order to develop citizens who meet the goals of the Americans with Disabilities Act of equal opportunity, full participation, independent living and economic self-sufficiency.


  • Develop students who are empowered, employable and have career aspirations.
  • Develop students who are self-learners and life-long learners
  • Develop students who are socially effective, healthy, and happy
  • Develop students who have independent living skills and have a high participation level in their community
  • Develop students who are healthy and happy
  • Develop students who have independent living skills and have a high participation level in their community

Why should WCU? The university has a history of supporting marginalized and underrepresented groups. As stated in our university mission we are a vibrant community that values its members and we can offer a campus climate of acceptance. WCU is the flagship institution of the PA State System of Higher Education (PASSHE). This pattern of excellence will continue and are applied to the recruitment, training, and retention of high quality peer mentors for students who participate in RAM Initiative. We have vibrant professional preparation programs in special education, social work, psychology, communication disorders, and adapted physical activity, whose students regularly participate in community-based engagement programs with individuals who have intellectual disabilities. We draw upon high quality peer mentors, supportive faculty and staff to enrich our program.

WCU RAM Initiative Staff:

  • Colleen Commisso, Faculty Co-Director
  • Dawn Patterson, Faculty Co-Director
  • John Craig, Dean, University College
  • Faculty and Staff of the RAM Initiative Alliance (advocates)
  • Supported by DREAM Partnership and the WCU Foundation


This Fall, we are offering two Open House events for the RAM Initiative for people who are planning ahead for 2024-2025 and beyond school years. On Monday 9/25/23 from 7:30-9:00 p.m. we will host a virtual session via Zoom. On Saturday 9/30/23 from 10:00-11:30 a.m. we will host an on-campus Open House. If interested, RSVP to the RAM Initiative email at In the email, include your child's name, current school and district, year in school, your name, and the desired Open House.

Open House

  • Saturday September 30 from 10-11:30 a.m. at West Chester University

Please RSVP for the open house at:

The RAM Initiative application is now available for the 2024-2025 academic year. To apply, download and complete the application . Comprehensive application packets are due/postmarked by November 28, 2023.

RAM Initiative Peer Mentor Application

Peer Mentor Application


RAM Initiative Group Photo

RAM Initiative Group Photo

Program Contact Information

Dawn R. Patterson Ed D
Recitation Hall room 210D

Colleen E. Commisso, Ph.D.
Recitation 309A
Phone - 610-436-2581 



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