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UNT ENGAGE and UNT EPIC Increase Access Thanks to Donor Support
At a Fall 2020 virtual art night, UNT EPIC participants had fun painting and socializing.
For Carson Brock, a neurodivergent student with autism spectrum disorder, education beyond high school remains an important piece of his life’s path. And when it comes to navigating post-secondary plans, Carson and his mother, Jean Ann Brock, are turning to Transition Academy at 29 Acres — a supported living community for adults with neurodiversities — and the University of North Texas.
The family connected with UNT because of its history of innovation and creativity as well as the rapidly expanding UNT ENGAGE and UNT EPIC programs, which serve students who feel they need additional academic, vocational or social support.
But the Brock family is doing more than participate in neurodiversity initiatives at the university — they have also given generously to both UNT ENGAGE and UNT EPIC.
“This substantial gift from Ms. Brock will have a major impact on so many lives, and allow us to provide supportive social and educational environments for our neurodivergent students,” says Nicole Dash, dean of the College of Health and Public Service. “We’re so grateful for her contributions, and for making it possible for us to serve a highly underrepresented population and help them develop personal connections and break down barriers they may otherwise face.”
For Jean Ann, the gifts are about recognizing the dynamic contributions that people with neurodiversities make to society and helping families who are walking similar paths.
“I hope our gifts enable student success through increasing awareness of self and the provision of support mechanisms,” says Jean Ann Brock. “Ultimately, I hope others follow in Carson’s footsteps — diligently working to be the best he can be.”
A partnership with the Texas Workforce Commission, UNT ENGAGE has doubled in size since the collaboration began in 2018 — serving 21 students in the Fall 2020 semester.
Staff members meet with students weekly to help them adjust to university life, set goals, develop skills and turn their degrees into careers.
The neurodivergent population historically struggles to finish school and tends to be underemployed — but that tide is turning for UNT ENGAGE students, who are often placed in internships with companies such as Fidelity and Dell. Last year, UNT ENGAGE graduated two seniors, both of whom moved directly into fruitful careers.
“That’s the dream,” says Lydia Evans, senior program project coordinator for UNT ENGAGE. “Many of our students have spent a lot of time feeling less-than, but we’re flipping the script and showing them that they are capable of true employment and are an asset.”
While UNT ENGAGE offers highly individualized academic and career support, UNT EPIC provides organized social and philanthropic opportunities for both neurotypical and neurodivergent young adults.
“For many of our students, even figuring out what they might want to be involved in is overwhelming,” says Lauren Mathews, clinical associate professor at UNT. “We’re meeting those needs that don’t necessarily fit under the academic umbrella.”
Since UNT EPIC is open to anyone over the age of 18, it provides opportunities for young adults both in and outside of the university to form meaningful relationships, broaden their interests and give back to the Denton community. For many, the program serves as a bridge between high school and college — for others, it is a way to stay connected after graduation.
UNT EPIC is a perfect fit for a student like Carson Brock as he moves through the 29 Acres Transition Academy and prepares to start his postsecondary education with the support of UNT ENGAGE.
“It’s an honor to welcome Carson and Jean Ann Brock into our UNT family. Their support of innovative program design will unlock doors for so many of our students,” says David Wolf, vice president for advancement at UNT.
Outside of Carson’s personal success, the Brock family wants to facilitate increased access to these life-changing opportunities at the university.
“Moving forward, I hope to see other students and faculty members benefit from dynamic programs like UNT ENGAGE and UNT EPIC,” says Jean Ann Brock. “They deserve recognition for cutting edge approaches to promoting neurodiversity inclusion on a college campus.”
Interested in showing your support for neurodivergent students at UNT? Make a gift to UNT EPIC or the Carson Brock Endowed Scholarship in Support of UNT ENGAGE.