AIM, Learning Differences earn grant

Carlena Bressanelli, Staff writer

Mercyhurst’s Learning Difference and Autism Initiative at Mercyhurst (AIM) recently received a $22,000 grant from the Edith L. Trees Charitable Trust.

The Learning Difference program, which is in its 30th year, helps students with learning disabilities to reduce physical, programmatic and attitudinal barriers. The program offers two levels of aid to students.

The AIM program supports students with autism to adjust and successfully progress through their college career. The program offers students academic, social, vocational and counseling support.

Lori Kavenay, secretary of the Learning Difference program, worked with Shelia Coon, director of External Affairs and Government Relations, to secure the grant. This was the first time the university submitted an application to the Pittsburgh-area trust.

Of the $22,000 grant, $12,000 will be going to the Learning Difference’s Kurzweil project, which helps students who struggle with reading, writing and studying to find new approaches to learning. The grant will help the program at both the main and North East campus to purchase a four-year license at a discounted price.

The rest of the grant will be used for the AIM’s Career Path program.

AIM was introduced to Mercyhurst in 2008, and the Career Path program is the program’s newest project to help those with autism spectrum disorders.

The Career Path program aims to raise the unemployment level, currently at 83.2 percent, among those diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.

According to the proposal of the grant, “Career path training and early exploration will allow for collaboration between employers and service providers to ensure the success of AIM students.”

The money from the grant will go toward four Career Path trips to New York City, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Ann Arbor, Michigan. During these trips, eight AIM students will seek internships and find employment opportunities.