CSU Mentors Help Challenged Students


The rigors of higher academia can be challenging enough for students, but for those who fall on the autism spectrum or have had traumatic brain injuries, it can be nearly impossible to manage.

At Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado, the university is doing something special to help some 100 students identified with Aspergers, Autism or who have had a traumatic brain injury — they will be getting peer support via one-on-one guidance and encouragement from fellow students.[1]

Education Grant

Last week, CSU announced that the university had receive a $2.3 million grant which will help affected students by giving them the chance to learn to navigate academic and social situations thanks to the help of some of their fellow students. The grant was award by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education to CSU’s Center for Community Partnerships. “Opportunities for Postsecondary Success,” which is the name of the project, is funded through the grant for five years. CSU plans to establish the program as a long-term service.

“This grant will help us develop a program to help students who struggle socially – and as a result, academically – because of their disability. It will provide them with one-on-one guidance and encouragement through a student mentor who will provide them with peer support,” said Catherine Schelly, the principal investigator on the grant and director of the university’s Center for Community Partnerships.

Autism Spectrum

Asperger’s syndrome is on the autism spectrum and is described by WebMd.com as a social disorder where children have “severe trouble with social situations.” [2] These children find it difficult to pick up social cues, dislike changes to their routine and appear to lack empathy. Autism is much severe than Asperger’s with children and adults plagued by communication disorders and the inability to relate with people. Together with students suffering from brain injuries, these conditions pose a challenge to students who have the grades to attend college, but lack the ability to thrive on campus.

Said Schelley, “The challenges these students face are often not academic, but do impact their ability to be successful — such as how to live with a roommate in a residence hall, how to communicate effectively with a professor, and how to make friends and get connected. Many students with these disabilities are lonely — on a campus full of people.”

Based on CSU community experience, Schelly believes that “…once participating students with disabilities receive intensive support and guidance through this program in their early college years, most will ultimately become independent in all aspects of their lives and experience success as a college student.”

Program Details

The grant will provide as many as 33 scholarships for students to receive support each year. Additional students will be able to participate in the program for a fee. The university is working with a community college and a local school district to help students prepare for college.

Mentors selected for the program will be paired with students and may attend some classes with them. These student mentors will guide students in where and how to study, connect with campus and community resources and to form friendships.


[1] Colorado State University: Colorado State University Students with Autism, Aspergers and Traumatic Brain Injury get Partnered with Other CSU Student Mentors

[2] WebMd: Asperger’s Syndrome – Symptoms


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