HIGHER EDUCATION: Tomball lifePATH program to graduate first class in May

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Launched in 2015 at the Lone Star College-Tomball campus, lifePATH provides student services to individuals with a variety of executive functioning disabilities, such as autism, traumatic brain injuries and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Director Anne Ginnett, who founded the program with former Lone Star College-North Harris President Stephen Head—now LSCS chancellor—and LSC-Tomball President Lee Ann Nutt, said students with these disabilities were not being taken care of by the college.

“There were students that were very capable but weren’t performing well in class because of all the other stuff getting in the way,” Ginnett said.

Ginnett said lifePATH, which serves as an alternative higher education program for LSC-Tomball students with disabilities, is the first program of its kind in the Greater Houston area and one of few programs in the nation. The first class of students in lifePATH’s history will graduate this May, she said.

LifePATH has grown from eight students to about 80 students, Program Manager Jim Engelke said. The need for the program outweighs the staff’s ability, he said, because this community of students are typically underserved before entering college.

“The curriculum that these types of students are held to [prior to college]hasn’t gotten up to speed with trends in knowing how well these students can actually perform,” Engelke said. “We had the ability to create this program from a more modern approach.”

Although students do not earn a degree via lifePATH curriculum, they can earn certificates in foundational occupational studies, business operations or any certifications or licenses for a chosen field of study, he said.

Local legislators have invested in lifePATH, Engelke said. State Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-Cypress, plans to introduce a bill this legislative session to provide more educational opportunities for students who have intellectual development disabilities, Oliverson’s Chief of Staff Eiman Siddiqui said.

Engelke also coordinates internships for all students, he said, which is an additional program requirement.

“Employers love to be part of the community and feel like they’re doing something good. It’s a win-win for them because they’re getting an employee who likes to do what they do,” he said.

LSC-Montgomery will begin offering lifePATH this fall, Ginnett said, and the deadline to apply for the Tomball and Montgomery programs is May 2.

“Knowing that I get to be a small part of making a difference in these kids’ lives and knowing the opportunities that we are creating for them, that means a lot to me,” Engelke said.

Lone Star College-Tomball
30555 Hwy. 249, Tomball
281-655-3630
www.lonestar.edu/lifepath

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Kara McIntyre
Kara started with Community Impact Newspaper as the summer intern for the south Houston office in June 2018 after graduating with a bachelor's degree in mass communication from Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas. She became the Tomball/Magnolia reporter in September 2018. Prior to CI, Kara served as the editor-in-chief of The Wichitan—Midwestern State University's student-run campus newspaper—and interned with both the Wichita Adult Literacy Council and VeepWorks.
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