ISHPEMING, Mich. (WLUC) – “Lifelong learning for handicapable adults” is written on the blackboard at the front of the Beyond 26 classroom filled with students like Karl Ostlund.
Ostlund will be receiving his GED at the age of 81 in May. He says the reason he comes to class is obvious.
“To learn,” explained Ostland. “Very simple.”
This mission statement for the Ishpeming-Negaunee-NICE Alternative Education Program was written by one of the adult cognitively impaired students.
Beyond 26 teacher Kitty Kososki recalls her student’s speech that inspired their written objective.
“She made this statement ‘We call ourselves handicapable because we are much more capable than people give us credit for being.’ And that’s what Sharon and I discovered,” said Kososki.
Sharon Dishnow is a registered nurse who helps in the classroom.
“If there’s ever a population that needs reinforcement, it’s the cognitively impaired,” said Dishnow. “We see this every year when they come back.”
What started as an Adult Basic Education (ABE) program in 1968 by Bill Hartman, has evolved into a privately-funded classroom for anyone who wishes to learn.
The name Beyond 26 comes from the age Michigan caps special education provided through the state. That age is 26.
“All these students are here learning, getting more education, not just stopping after high school. There’s not an end date, you can come here forever,” said Pete Menge, Beyond 26 teacher aide.
Many students intend to do just that. Not only are they taught math, English, science, and history twice a week, they learn self-care, health, sustainable life skills and much more.
“It taught me how to be a better person and to live independently,” said Beth Pringle, Beyond 26 student. Thanks to Beyond 26, Pringle now lives at home.
The program has two 11-week terms and is struggling to remain viable.
“We’ve been going wherever and to whomever we can, in order to fund the program because it has to be paid for by private funds,” said Kososki.
Right now students are paying $100 per semester, which is just a fraction of the cost to run the program.
Learn more about Beyond 26 funding and how to help continue education for the cognitively impaired beyond 26 Wednesday on the TV6 Early News.
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