Department of Education grants $2M to occupational therapy program

Katy Mueller

For some students at Colorado State University, adjusting to college life may not be as easy as it is for others.

Students with complex needs ranging from reasons like brain injuries or autism may find it difficult to adapt to college expectations that other students seem to have no trouble with. This is how Creating Higher-Education Opportunities for Individualized Career and Employment Success came to CSU’s Department of Occupational Therapy.


The Department of Occupational Therapy is located on the Oval. (Photo by: Kevin Olson).
The Department of Occupational Therapy is located on the Oval. (Photo by: Kevin Olson).

CHOICES is a five-year program that received a $2.2 million grant from the Department of Education in order to help students reach success. It is a partnership between varying Fort Collins Institutions including CSU, Front Range Community College and the Poudre Valley School District

The newest addition to CHOICES, the “Bridge Program,” will start next fall. This program will help high school-to-college transitioning students be as successful as possible by allowing students who need extra adjustment time to come a week early to the university and get settled into their dorms, meet professors and become familiar with campus before the rest of the students arrive.

Director of the program, Cathy Schelly, said many people are excited about this new addition to CSU.

“We have a waiting list right now,” Schelly said. “We are getting phone calls and requests to be a part of this program from all over the country.”

Out of hundreds of applicants seeking the DEO’s funding, CSU is only one of 25 that did, and is only one of seven that has been continuing to receive their support.

“There have been other grants that have received funding, but I think ours is unique with this Bridge program and an Empowerment Course that we are teaching,” Schelly said.

Sophomore natural resources student Alli Rowley said this program is a great addition to CSU.

“This program is something that I think is really important,” Rowley said. “I have a family member who is doing something like this at a different school and it’s a really cool idea.”

The Empowerment Course that CHOICES is starting next fall is an online course that is accessible to non-CSU students who are transitioning from K-12 into college or the work force. It is designed to help students learn social skills and acclimate to a new environment, while developing leadership skills as well. 

“In high school, there are usually tons of individualized learning programs for people who need it, but once they get to college, they are on there own, which is really hard for them,” Rowley said. “It’s nice seeing CSU help these students out.”


Collegian Reporter Katy Mueller can be reached at or Twitter at @katymueller13.