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A bright spotlight on student success: Meet Jessica Lonergan, Skagit Valley College student

Driving each day together to Skagit Valley College is a dream
come true for Joy Caldwell and her daughter, Jessica Lonergan.

Joy is finishing
her Nursing prerequisites and will enter the program next fall. “It was 31
years ago when I graduated from college the first time,” said Joy. “Now, it’s
my turn to finish what I’ve dreamed of doing.”

For Jessica, the
doors to higher education at SVC are wide open, thanks to the College’s
Individualized, Next Step, Vocational Education and Social Skills Training (INVEST) program.
SVC’s program is one of only three offered in Washington.

comprehensive transition program for individuals with intellectual disabilities
who are 18 to 21 years of age. The program is a collaboration between SVC and
the Anacortes, Burlington-Edison, Concrete, La Conner, Mount Vernon, and Sedro-Woolley school districts. Stanwood plans to join the partnership next

Although Jessica was born with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and scoliosis, she doesn’t let those challenges create a barrier to her success. “It was important to Jessica to attend college, just like her sisters, said Joy. “There’s a huge sense of pride that comes with that.”

With INVEST, each student’s education is adjusted to fit their goals and career choice. Subjects

include communication, independence, personal finance, and interview techniques to help them develop marketable employment skills. In addition, all INVEST students have access to an iPad to work on class assignments and presentations. Jessica used those skills when she co-presented a workshop during the annual statewide conference for Washington Developmental Disabilities Administration.

In addition to her classes, Jessica enjoys participating in extracurricular activities. This year, she played a role in the SVC Drama production, “Living Newspaper.” On a recent visit to the Phillip Tarro Theatre, Jessica stepped onto the stage and her eyes lit up. “Drama is my favorite subject!” she said with a big smile.

At Commencement this year, Jessica will be ready to cheer on her seven INVEST classmates who will graduate. She’s already excited to put on her own cap and gown next year when she graduates. Her mom sums it up this way: “I love this college and the environment that it offers to Jessica and all students. The diversity and richness that INVEST has brought to campus is pretty amazing.”

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