February 3, 2023—Project SAINT, which stands for Student Access and Inclusion Together, is a one- to two-year program at Santa Fe College funded by the Florida Center for Students with Unique Abilities. With up to 15 students accepted annually during the Fall and Spring semester and ages typically ranging from 19-30 years old, Project SAINT boasts a rigorous program that aims to enhance every aspect of students’ lives.
“This is a uniquely abled group, but one that historically, unlike individuals with other disabilities, has not been given access to college until more recently,” remarked Linda Mussillo, Program Administrator of Project SAINT. “The central premise is that access to college experiences and inclusion can be provided that is sensibly modified, supported, and accommodated for able individuals who happen to have intellectual disabilities and that this inclusion allows them to thrive in so many ways. “
Amidst her colorfully decorated office, where students’ artwork adorns every wall and shelf, Linda’s passion for the program is evident. As the self-proclaimed “big idea lady” overseeing the program. Linda has worked tirelessly along with her staff to help provide students with every resource to help them succeed both personally and professionally.
“All college students, what are they preparing for? To be more independent, to live on their own and to lead fulfilling lives. Guess what? Same with our students, that’s what they want and that’s what we want for them.”
With individualized academic and vocational plans that cater to students’ interests, Project SAINT offers an array of pathways that students can pursue in order to develop established interests or narrow down what their interests might be through a more exploratory program. Mentors, who are SF students, are also provided for each student part-time as a very central aspect of the program and its goals. This helps provide support for students but also encourages independence.
They also meet with a job developer who helps them create a virtual portfolio which includes a resume, videos and photos of them doing different activities within Project SAINT, as well as certificates they’ve earned, which can be shown to an employer. The developer also assists in building their resume, helping them look for jobs, and helping them to develop the kinds of social skills employers look for.
Initially, students will go through a trial period in Adult Education. “We want to make sure they can handle rigor; they’re motivated, they attend, they’re punctual, they have good work behaviors. They want to be included on a college campus, not just in theory but in fact, and it’s not just that their parents want it; it’s that they want it and that they’re independent enough,” Linda added.
If Project SAINT is not a fit, it does not mean there is no fit for those students at SF. They may fit in Adult Education in general classes without the Project SAINT extras.
“SAINT adds another layer of challenge and opportunity which is appropriate for some and not for others.”
“We feel it’s transformative,” remarked Linda. “When you ask students, parents or guardians, they say ‘this was a life changer.'”