Making dreams a reality

 Ava Cutler

KENNESAW, Ga. (May 20, 2016) — Watching her big sister head off to college inspired Ava Cutler to do the same thing, but without Kennesaw State University’s Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth, Cutler’s dream could have remained an unfulfilled wish.

“I just wanted to have a college experience like my sister,” the 2016 Academy grad said. “I love living in campus housing and just being on my own.”

The Academy, housed in the WellStar College of Health and Human Services, offers students with different intellectual or developmental abilities the opportunity for a college experience, including living on campus and an education-abroad program. Academy students audit college-level courses in the two-year certificate program that was the first in Georgia to offer post-secondary educational opportunities to persons with different intellectual and developmental abilities.

“We have tutors, and whenever I need them, they’re there,” Cutler said.

As part of its continuing evolution, the Academy also now offers a second two-year certificate program, “Advanced Leadership and Career Development.” Cutler will continue her education in the ALCD program in the fall.

“Since being a part of this program, I’m more independent, and I feel like I can do more stuff for myself,” she said. “I’m more social, and I don’t think any of this would have happened without the Academy.”

As part of her collegiate experience, Cutler interned at the Institute for Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality. She hopes when she returns to campus this fall she can intern at The Commons student dining hall.

Cutler was one of 11 Academy students who recently celebrated graduation from the Academic, Social and Career Enrichment program, receiving a “Certificate of Social Growth and Development.” Of that cohort, seven are continuing into the ALCD program in the fall.

"KSU has such an accepting culture for diverse populations, which allows our students to continue to be successful,” said Academy Executive Director Ibrahim Elsawy. “I could not thank the KSU faculty or the Academy staff enough for the support that they continue to give to our students."

U.S. Department of Education Commissioner for the Rehabilitation Services Administration Janet LaBreck served as the keynote speaker.

“I think the Academy has created a foundation for these students to move on into society and be successful, productive members of society,” she said. “Go out and be bold and be successful and embrace any challenge that comes before you.”


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit