MAINE, USA — If you live in Southern Maine you've most likely heard about STRIVE--a non-profit organization in Maine that serves tweens, teens and young adults with intellectual disabilities.
STRIVE has many programs to support this growing population, but one they started in 2019 is the first of its kind---and it's capturing the attention of people not only in Maine but all over the world.
Charlie Saffian is a student from Cumberland who taking online classes through STRIVE WorldWIDE.
"Doing STRIVE WorldWIDE is fun because I get to learn how to do stuff like how to do checks and how to be healthy about eating like vegetables and stuff," Saffian said.
Amanda Kaufheil is participating from New York City.
"I really appreciate all of the staff and the helpers really help me a lot and I get my homework done. I really love this program it develops me new skills it makes me feel good," Kaufheil said.
Anne Ryan is the program director for STRIVE WorldWIDE. She said the online program teaches independent living skills to teens and adults with autism and intellectual disabilities, a program in Maine that was created out of need.
"Online learning had grown in every area of education but there wasn't support for our population. And when you did a find an online program for people with intellectual disabilities or autism it was for the supporter, not the participant themselves," Ryan said.
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STRIVE WorldWIDE has changed that by offering courses with live seminars and a self-paced, interactive online classroom.
The results have been impressive and are benefiting people in Maine and from away.
66 percent of students are from Maine, the others are from 19 different states and Canada.
"We have interest from all over the place," Ryan said.
STRIVE has just created a partnership with a similar organization across the US called Community Catalysts of California. It also supports and helps people with autism and intellectual disabilities.
Wendy Forkas is the CEO who read about STRIVE WorldWIDE in an article.
"I was like that is so amazing and such a unique way to provide support and ongoing education to individuals and if it's already being done I don't want to recreate it, let's partner. I would love to bring this to California," Forkas said.
Similar to Maine Forkas says this online program will be a valuable asset to people who don't have a lot of service options.
"This is a way that even people in very rural areas can still have interaction and connection with others."
And sometimes that's the best part of learning.
"It's really fun and I got to see people from other countries," student Charlie Saffian said.
Student Amanda Kaufheil added, "it's really nice to communicate with others and get to know people around the world and be apart of this great opportunity and program."
Maine students are eligible for scholarships for STRIVE WorldWIDE.