GC THRIVE is an Inclusive Postsecondary Education (IPSE) Program that enables young adults with intellectual disabilities, ages 18-28, to attend college with their non-disabled peers. The program is committed to providing an inclusive, meaningful college experience for students so they can develop the social, academic, career, and independent living skills that will support them to live authentic and fulfilling lives. 

GC THRIVE is a two-year program designed to be a transformative experience for all Georgia College & State University community members because it embodies diversity and inclusion on campus. GC THRIVE students are encouraged to identify and pursue individual academic interests, define practical and meaningful career paths, and develop reciprocal relationships with faculty, staff, and peers.

THRIVE is a non-residential program.

Program Overview

THRIVE students define their programs of study through a Person-Centered Planning (PCP) process that is steeped in the liberal arts education tradition. The learning outcomes expected for all GCSU students include critical thinking skills, creative problem-solving skills, communication skills, teamwork, civic knowledge and engagement, and intercultural competence. These skills are important for all graduates to achieve so that they may thrive in their lives beyond college, in their careers and in their communities.

As part of their liberal arts education, students will participate in the GC Journeys Program. The GC Journeys Program provides all GCSU students with opportunities to transform how they experience college. There are three transformative experiences built into every student’s experience: First Year Experience, Career Planning Milestones, and Capstone. Students are then encouraged to add two additional transformative experiences: Intensive Leadership Experiences, Mentored Undergraduate Research, Community-Based Engaged Learning, Internships, or Study Abroad/Study Away.

In pursuit of the Certificate of Completion in Liberal Arts Education, THRIVE students will enroll in two Georgia College & State University courses each semester. The course curriculum will be modified by the THRIVE Academic Coordinator and Peer Mentors. THRIVE students will also complete work internships each semester and participate in Student Life activities.



Below, you will find information about the students we serve and the applicants who are prioritized.

  • Students must have an intellectual or developmental disability. Students may have another primary diagnosis, such as autism, but to be accepted into the THRIVE Program, students must have a documented intellectual impairment. 
  • Students must have received special education services under IDEA during their P-12th grade education.
  • Students must have completed high school. THRIVE is not a dual enrollment program.
  • Students must have health insurance.
  • Students must have a cell phone.
  • Students must have a laptop computer that they can bring to campus.

We prioritize applicants who:

  • Have a strong desire to attend college and a commitment to completing all assignments.
  • Have personal goals for education, career, and living.
  • Have a history of good school attendance.
  • Demonstrate the ability to maintain appropriate social and emotional behavior (no history of behavioral concerns).
  • Can develop the ability to navigate campus independently.
  • Demonstrate effective communication skills and exhibit socially responsible behavior in class and on campus.
  • Have a minimum reading and writing level of 3rd grade.
  • Can work independently for sustained periods of time.
  • Have the ability to be successful in competitive employment situations.
  • Demonstrate self-awareness and the ability to self-advocate.


If you think that this program is a good fit for you, the next step is to complete an application. Applications are available on the website. Review of applications will begin February 15th for a fall semester start.

GC THRIVE Application

Please send completed applications to stephen.wills@gcsu.edu.

In April, the selection committee will schedule interviews for applicants and their families if the committee determines that the applicant is a good fit for the THRIVE Program. At a later time, the THRIVE selection committee will schedule a time when the applicant can spend a full day on campus. Final decisions regarding acceptance into the THRIVE Program are based on the application material submitted, the interview with the applicant and family, the day spent on campus, and recommendations.

Please note that due to the small size of the THRIVE Program, a limited number of students will be admitted each fall.

Program Costs

$2500 per semester. There are a limited number of scholarships available (made possible by a grant from the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities).

At this time, the THRIVE Program is a Tuesday & Thursday program only.

The program costs cover tuition through the School of Continuing and Professional Studies. The program fee does not cover books, meals, or transportation.


Thank you to the wonderful donors who make this program possible!

If you would like to make a donation, you may visit the link below:

Give to GC Thrive

Meet the Students
Mikaela Smith - GC THRIVE student

Meet Mikaela Smith! Mikaela is our newest Bobcat and she graduated from Wiesbaden High School in Wiesbaden Germany. She has travelled all over the world! Mikaela is passionate about working with animals and in her free time she helps her family around their farm. She hopes to carry these skills with her as she works to reach her goal of becoming a vet tech. Outside of school Mikaela is involved in many sports, but bowling is her favorite. She participates in the Special Olympics with the Augusta Stars, and she recently took home a medal for her performance. Mikaela’s favorite part about the THRIVE program is the opportunity to learn both in and out of the classroom. 

Meet Madelyn St. John! Maddie was originally born in China but was adopted and moved to the United States in 2007 where she attended Baldwin High School. Maddie comes from a big family of eight brothers and sisters! She is passionate about helping people understand disabilities and how to work with people with disabilities. In her free time, Maddie enjoys playing video games, especially Pokémon Go, and socializing with friends. Outside of school, Maddie works at Wendy’s and loves her job. One thing she loves about the THRIVE program is that she is given new learning opportunities that she didn’t have in high school. For example, she has learned how to write essays. She's also learned that it is okay not to know something as long as you do your research. At the end of the THRIVE program, Maddie wants to continue educating people about disabilities through activism.

Meet Spencer Kirkley! Spencer is from Eastman, Georgia and he attended Dodge County High School. He is passionate about being a GCSU student. In his free time, you’ll find him hanging around with friends, going for walks, or watching his favorite television shows. Spencer’s favorite part about the THRIVE program is having lunch with friends every day. Since starting the THRIVE Program, Spencer has learned how to be more confident when talking to new people, and he loves making new friends on campus wherever he goes. At the end of the THRIVE program, Spencer would love to keep going to school or take his skills out into the world and get a job.


GC THRIVE - Program Directors


Dr. Nicole DeClouette

Interim Associate Dean
220F Kilpatrick Education Center

PhD, Syracuse University; BA, University of California, Berkeley


Cross-Cultural Constructions of Disability, International Inclusive Education, Collaboration and Co-teaching

Stephen Wills

Dr. Stephen Wills

Program Co-Coordinator
Room 228A

PhD, University of Alabama; MEd, Georgia College & State University; BS, Auburn University

Robert Sumowski Headshot

Dr. Rob Sumowski

Room 217B

EdD, University of Georgia; EdS, Georgia College & State University; MEd, Georgia College & State University; BA, Mercer University


 Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, Professional Development School Partnerships, School Law and Investigations