There’s a new university taking shape in Bethalto, Illinois and it’s set to be the new standard for students with various disabilities. It’s called Bethalto University. With the name, comes a sense of pride. But most importantly, a sense of belonging.

Bethalto University is the next step for students with various disabilities after graduating high school. There’s a lot of pride at the school.

“I go to Bethalto University,” said 19-year-old student Mitch Parmentier with a big grin.

This new program was developed with the intention of helping students transition into normal life, without having to leave the community. Before the university began back in August, students were sent to a program 20 minutes away. It was in a different town with unfamiliar faces.

Having the program right in Bethalto, has been a godsend for mom Julie Lindsay.

“It’s just a relief. I know when she gets on that bus I don’t have to worry the whole rest of the day because she is with people who love her, respect her, in a learning environment I don’t think you can ask for anything more than that.”

Superintendent Dr. Jill Griffin is thrilled about this new program and hopes other districts might model their own programs off of theirs.

“It’s been a welcome and something were all really embracing and wrapping our arms around,” she said.

Jennifer Weber is special education coordinator. She and Dr. Griffin worked together on implementing Bethalto University.

“The number one thing is transitioning into life. So, we have a curriculum that every month looks at a different life skill. There’s one month that talks about clothing and what to wear when it’s really cold out or if you’re going to an interview,” explained Weber.

The students also learn to work at Civic Memorial’s Corner Café getting hands on experience with money and business.

Mitch Parmentier learns communication skills as star of the school’s Pep Rally videos. His dad, Mike, is head football coach at CM.

“It’s just been a tremendous addition you know from graduating CMHS to going on to the university. He’s just having an outstanding time right now,” said Mike Parmentier.

The program is still in its early stages with only a handful of students. So far, the teachers and parents say it’s going really well and could be the start of something great.

Dr. Jill Griffin says it’s also saving the district money. When students were bused to another program outside the district, they would pay a tuition fee. Now, the schooling is held inside Bethalto’s administration building.