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LIFE Program honors first graduates

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The University of Louisiana at Lafayette will be honoring the first ever students to complete the Learning is for Everyone (LIFE) Program at spring commencement on May 11.

The program was founded four years ago with a mission to help young adults with disabilities become thriving members of society. With a key focus on academic growth, career development, and community involvement, the program aims at helping students find careers that they love. Along with this monumental milestone, this will also mark the first time that we will be welcoming UL LIFE Program students into the UL Lafayette Alumni Association family.

Caroline Jurisich currently serves as the Lead Program Coordinator. In this role, she has the opportunity to help these young adults achieve their fullest potential. “Our program is highly individualized,” said Jurisich. She has watched the program grow over the years from four students in 2014 to currently reaching its maximum capacity of 16 students.

One of the many highlights of this program is that students get the opportunity to have an on-campus internship. Just as with any typical college student, UL LIFE Program students get the chance to explore career possibilities. Their internships range from UL Recreational Sports, the Child Development Center, and with the Ragin’ Cajuns Golf Team.

LIFE students experience this journey with their mentors, college students who volunteer their time with the UL LIFE Program. Their duties range from accompanying a LIFE student to class, helping them at their internship, or simply enjoying lunch together in the Quad. Most importantly, the students and mentors form genuine friendships that last for years to come. “I can honestly say that the success of this program comes from our students and our mentors,” said Jurisich.

As graduation day approaches, the UL Lafayette Alumni Association interviewed the UL LIFE seniors to see how they were feeling about walking across the stage. Elliott Venable is extremely excited to have a huge celebration with his family after graduation. When asked what his favorite part of college has been, he said that it was meeting his mentor, Cody Krener. “He’s a good guy and a good friend,” said Venable.

Charli Webre will be decorating her graduation cap with her mom for the big day. Webre received a Louisiana Ring this past spring and said that she will be wearing it proudly during graduation.

Brooke Hebert is eager to wear her cap and gown but will treasure the memories from her college career. Hebert made history while on campus by becoming the first Phi Mu sister nationally to have Down syndrome.

Mary Martina said that she has loved meeting so many new friends and has enjoyed going to basketball games as a student.

Robert Zepernick feels very bittersweet about graduation. “It feels very surreal,” said Zepernick. As a student, Zepernick got the chance to intern with the Ragin’ Cajuns Golf Team and traveled with them to Destin, FL for a competition. When asked what advice he would give to future LIFE students, Zepernick answered, "be cool and be nice."

As these UL LIFE seniors make the transition from students to alumni, it’s clear that they all have a bright future ahead of them. From their warm personalities to their radiant smiles, these young adults are ready to conquer the world. We know that they will be successful in whatever they set their minds to and will always show off their Ragin’ Cajun spirit.

Photo: LIFE seniors Elliot Venable, Mary Martina, Charli Webre, Robert Zepernick, and Brooke Hebert.