Academy works to ‘broaden the horizons’

Academy for Adult Learning pairs tutors and students with disabilities.

Senior Kayla Roberson (left), and sophomore Hayley Wenner look at photos from the Academy for Adult Learning’s events, like their prom, held last month. | EVAN EASTERLING TTN

Temple’s Academy for Adult Learning focuses on transitioning.

The Academy, founded in 2008 by the Institute on Disabilities, is a two-year program that allows students with disabilities to more easily adjust to college life with a group of support. Students who work with the Academy for Adult Learning can serve as tutors or mentors, depending on the type of relationship they want to cultivate with other students.

Hayley Wenner, a sophomore speech pathology major, is currently a tutor, but she used to work as a mentor, too. The responsibilities of a tutor include helping the students pay attention during class and retain information.

“It could be taking notes, organizing notes,” Wenner said. “But then we also help make sure that students are meeting deadline and following their accommodation plans.”

Mentors, Wenner said, focus more on the social aspect of transitioning into college. This can include everything from going with students to basketball games, to attending the Academy’s prom.

“As a mentor, we kind of just want to broaden the horizons of the students,” Wenner said.

“I learned to not take my education for granted because even though education is a right for everyone in this country, I think that some of our students, from who I have talked to, they have felt that they don’t have the same opportunities as we do,” Wenner said. “They show me that no matter what your ability, or who you are, you have the right to education and you should take it.”

Senior Mary Fuss (left), has had senior Emily Zahn as a mentor for the past two years. Fuss will graduate this year. | EVAN EASTERLING TTN
Senior Mary Fuss (left), has had senior Emily Zahn as a mentor for the past two years. Fuss will graduate this year. | EVAN EASTERLING TTN

Christina DeGraffinried, a senior early childhood education and special education major, is a mentor at the Academy, which she said serves as a resource for students with disabilities to succeed.

“It’s just basically a motivational tool for them to have the courage or the means to get a job or be able to get used to computer skills,” DeGraffinried said.

Emily Zahn, a senior early childhood education major with a concentration in special education, also serves as a mentor.  She has been involved with the Academy for two years.  Her mentee, Mary Fuss, will graduate from the program this year.

“My favorite part of being involved is being with friends, showing everything you want to do in life,” Fuss said.

Fuss loves to sing, Zahn said, and they often do that together.

“People are all the same, regardless of having a disability or anything really,” Zahn said. “We are all college students and we all just want to get an education and have a social life.”

“They are just really good people, that if we were all able to look past the stigma of disability that we would probably open ourselves up a lot more than we realize.”

Alexis Rogers can be reached at

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