Program for UNT students with intellectual disabilities will offer increased scholarship support.

H-E-B grant increases scholarship support for ELEVAR students.

H-E-B grant increases scholarship support for ELEVAR students.

Thanks to a $50,000 grant from H-E-B, UNT ELEVAR — an inclusive postsecondary education program for students with intellectual disabilities (ID) — will increase scholarship support in 2022.

ELEVAR — which stands for Empower, Learn, Excel, enVision, Advance, Rise — welcomed an inaugural class of five students in the fall of 2021. As the program brings in a larger cohort for its second year, the grant from H-E-B will help more students with ID become determined, independent and healthy adults who are prepared for successful careers.

“At H-E-B, our culture is rooted in inclusion, where each and every person counts,” said Mabrie Jackson, senior director of public affairs for H-E-B and Central Market. “We believe in investing in people — all people, and the ELEVAR program advances independence and self-reliance for all people.”

Inclusion is at the core of ELEVAR’s mission. While students in the program participate in some specialized courses, programs and mentoring, they also receive the support they need to be fully integrated into the UNT community.

“Our students follow the same path as traditional UNT students,” said Brandi Levingston, program director for UNT ELEVAR. “They take traditional courses and live and work on campus. And, like every other college student, the goal once they finish the program is to get a job.”

With the support from H-E-B, ELEVAR will continue mirroring the UNT experience by providing scholarships. This will have a significant impact in terms of creating access to the program and preparing students for employment. But Levingston identifies an additional benefit for the UNT community: increased diversity. In addition to the diversity students with ID bring to campus, opening the door for scholarships will enable ELEVAR to be even more culturally and linguistically diverse.

“We’re looking for diversity within this group as well. We want to have not only diverse thinkers at UNT, but also diverse thinkers with intellectual disabilities,” said Levingston.

The students in ELEVAR’s first cohort, who Levingston calls “the dream come true,” have career goals that range from working in the theatre and health care fields to truck driving and coaching high school basketball. And while they pursue those dreams, ELEVAR students are empowered to be part of the Mean Green family as they become more independent and prepared for competitive employment.

“The UNT ELEVAR program has helped me enroll in classes, get a job and socialize,” said student John M. “The program has helped me experience new relationships because of my involvement with friends, UNT ELEVAR peer allies and study partners.”