Pennsylvania program aims for full integration – and employment
MILLERSVILLE, Pa. — The kale Caesar salad is a hit at The Pressroom in nearby Lancaster. Daniel Castellanos, a prep cook at the restaurant, says the secret’s in the dressing. He describes it, speaking deliberately but not slowly, clipping off each word briskly, never running two words together.
“All you need is lemon juice, some palm oil that you’ll find at any convenience store or supermarket,” he said.
“You also need eggs, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and some anchovies. … With the Caesar dressing I make from scratch, it has a lot of flavors, and it has a lot of textures, something you’ll never see in different restaurants.”
Concentration on detail helped Castellanos win the 2019 “Restaurant Employee of the Year” title from the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association. It’s part of the reason that an employee of his modest rank is a star at The Pressroom.
He’s also a star at Millersville University, a few miles south of Lancaster. That’s where he graduated in 2016, where he gave a commencement address, and where he was the first student in a new program, now called Integrated Studies. Its aim is to bring students with intellectual disabilities to school and weave them into campus as fully as any student.
It is decidedly not “special ed goes to college,” as Integrated Studies Director Jan Bechtel puts it. In fact, Integrated Studies is the antithesis of old-fashioned K-12 special ed, with its separate classrooms, special classes, and sheltered-workshop simulations. The goal is uncompromising integration into college life.
The 25 Integrated Studies students live with roommates who aren’t part of the program. No classes are designed exclusively for them. They join clubs on campus, but they do not constitute their own club. No social events are designed solely for them. They need to work longer and harder than typical students to learn and understand. But college life, with all its pleasures, challenges, and opportunities, is now within their reach.
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