Governor McMaster pledges to expand funding for special needs programs

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CLEMSON, S.C. (WSPA)- Governor McMaster was on the Clemson campus Friday, after the university made a call-to-action for special needs college students.

Clemson University has one of the most prominent special needs programs in South Carolina.

The ClemsonLIFE program was started for special needs students who may not have many options for college. The opportunity allows them to come to Clemson to learn, grow, and gain life skills.

Now this program will be expanding through the state.

McIveer Thomas started his college search with a lot of questions.

“Is there a place, you know, where a college, where special needs would be,” Thomas said.

As a student with intellectual challenges, his options, were limited but that’s when he found ClemsonLIFE.

“When I opened that letter up, I was just blown away, I was shocked that they accepted me,” Thomas said.

Thomas graduated several years ago and his story one of overcoming.

Thomas said, “Now I’m independent, my skills have improved tremendously. There’s still bumps in the road but they’re better than they were years ago.”

Thomas’ success story isn’t the first.

Hundreds of other special needs students have been able to go through the two-year program and get full time jobs.

Governor McMaster announced Friday he will be allocating additional funding in the state budget for other colleges and universities to start similar programs of their own.

“Keep doing what you’re doing. It is making South Carolina an even greater place to live, work, and raise a family,” McMaster said.

For Clemson President, Jim Clements it hits close to home.

His daughter Grace is a freshman in the ClemsonLIFE program this year.

“We never knew if she would be able to go to college and have an experience like this and have these friends and have this program, learn the skills, how to live independently and how to get a job and she’s doing great, so not as the president of the university but as a ClemsonLIFE dad, I’m thrilled, we’re so blessed,” Clements said.

This additional funding will also be given to the schools with existing special needs programs, allowing them to continue and enhance the opportunities for students.

The ClemsonLIFE program graduates on average 7-8 students each year, last year they doubled that number.

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