DO-IT Scholars: A Promising Practice in Preparing Youth with Disabilities for College

Date Updated

DO-IT Scholars is a college preparation program for teens with disabilities. Originally funded by the National Science Foundation in 1992, DO-IT Scholars was institutionalized with Washington state funds in 1998. The program also receives funds from Microsoft and Boeing.

Each year, a cohort of about twenty high school students with disabilities begin participating in online mentoring, peer support, internships, and other activities to prepare for college and careers, and increase interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). For up to three years, the students attend a live-in summer camp at the University of Washington campus where they

  • explore careers and the world of work;
  • learn to select and use adaptive technology, applications software, and Internet resources;
  • experience college life on a university campus in the summer;
  • learn about reasonable accommodations at school and in the workplace;
  • network with peers and working professionals with disabilities;
  • gain requisite knowledge to enter and succeed in college and challenging careers; and
  • participate in leadership opportunities that promote accessible environments, worksites, and community activities.

More than three hundred individuals have participated in the DO-IT Scholars program. DO-IT Scholars reach high levels of success with respect to postsecondary education, careers, and leadership. They boast a 100% high school graduation rate. Nearly all enter postsecondary school and 112 are currently taking college classes. As of Winter 2008, postsecondary degrees earned include: forty-five associates degrees, eighty-three baccalaureate degrees, and sixteen graduate degrees. One hundred and three of those degrees are in STEM. Sixty-four students are in the workforce, with forty-six in STEM fields.

The efficacy of the DO-IT Scholars program in preparing youth with disabilities for college and careers is reflected in positive outcomes with respect to high school graduation, postsecondary degrees, and career attainment. Its success is also reflected in its ability to sustain funding since 1992, and in the numerous awards received by the program, its staff, and its participants. These include the President's Award of Excellence in Mentoring, the Golden Apple Award for excellence in education, and the prestigious Catalyst Award for innovative use of technology.

For information on how to create a program similar to DO-IT Scholars in your community, consult How DO-IT Does It. For information about the current Scholars and their progress, view the publication DO-IT Snapshots. Consult the NCSET Research to Practice Brief to learn how DO-IT Scholars activities are grounded in research. You may also be interested in viewing the video Part of Me, Not All of Me in which teens with disabilities share their interests, activities, and other aspects of their lives showing that their disabilities do not define who they are.