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Indiana's first Autism college program set to premiere at Ancilla College

PLYMOUTH, Ind. -

A local college is starting a program, that will be the first of its kind in the whole state of Indiana. Ancilla College, located just outside of Plymouth, is launching a special program made just for students on the Autism spectrum. 

It's a perfect place, for a premiere program.

"This school, this whole center, focuses on helping the underserved, and helping people become better than they ever dreamed of becoming. So it was just kind of a natural fit," says Ancilla College President, Ken Zirkle.

A home, just across the street from Ancilla's campus, will house a handful of new students this upcoming fall. New students who are on the autism spectrum. 

It's the first of its kind in the Hoosier state. 

"Are we able to turn out students with the right education, that are able to care for themselves, work in society, and be productive?" asks Zirkle. That's their goal. 

Zirkle believes a program like this is much needed. 

"Why is it so necessary? In Indiana alone, you have nearly 16,000 individuals under age 20, 21, that are on the spectrum," he explains. "And after high school, there's almost no program available. 

The school brought in Kristen Robson to be the director of the new Autism program, knowing she felt passionate about giving this young adults a chance. 

"It's important because they, just like everyone else, have plans for life," she says. "They want to be journalists, they want to work at colleges, they want to be doctors. And they just need a little extra support to get there."

Support that will be found in the specialized residence, and also, with a little extra attention given by staff. 

"[It's to] help them get to a point where they can interact more effectively in society," explains Zirkle. "These are people who are very, very bright, but they have trouble talking to you."

They're doing it for the students. 

"We're going to take people who have a very tough time ahead of them, and we're going to turn it around," adds Zirkle.

In doing so, Zirkle and the rest of the faculty believe there is unlimited potential in what the students can achieve. 

"You're going to have students with minds you just can't believe. And we're going to unlock it, that's all," he says. "We're going to be the school that turns out the students that gets out, and ends up finding the cure for cancer. I believe that."

Ancilla College will start accepting applications to this program, beginning April 10.  

For the first year, the school has decided to only accept less than 10 students.  Zirkle says they want to make sure the students get enough attention, and to allow the faculty to get used to the new program. 

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