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For Immediate Release
October 6, 2005

TCNJ Receives Grant from National Down Syndrome Society for Postsecondary Education Model Program 

Initiative to Open the Doors of Higher Education for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities

EWING, NJ ... The National Down Syndrome Society’s (NDSS) Transition and Postsecondary Education Model Program for People with Intellectual Disabilities will provide funding to Mercer County Community College and The College of New Jersey to create a program for students with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities. The program is generously funded by Steve and Laura Riggio of Bernardsville, whose daughter Melissa is 17 years old and has Down syndrome. Mr. Riggio is also CEO of Barnes & Noble, Inc.

“With the documented success of inclusion in elementary and secondary education, it is now time to advance into the frontier of postsecondary education,” said Mr. Riggio, who also serves on the NDSS Board of Directors. “Both of the institutions selected to receive grants embrace our belief that people with intellectual disabilities deserve the opportunity to enrich their lives through higher education.”

Multiple research studies have shown that postsecondary education has a positive impact on employment and wages, social networks and self-determination skills in adults with intellectual disabilities. The program in New Jersey will develop best practices that can be replicated on college campuses across the country. NDSS is also working to make the program affordable by exploring available funding sources and advocating for federal financial aid to be available for these students. NDSS already sponsors an annual postsecondary scholarship through The Joshua O’Neill and Zeshan Tabani Enrichment Fund.

“We welcome this occasion to provide greater educational opportunities for students with cognitive disabilities,” said Thomas N. Wilfrid, Vice President for Academic Affairs at Mercer County Community College.

R. Barbara Gitenstein, president of The College of New Jersey, stated, “We are very pleased to be part of this partnership with Mercer County Community College in developing a model program for helping enhance the academic and social skills of individuals with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities.”

Both Mercer County Community College and The College of New Jersey have received approximately $50,000 in funding to develop their programs during the 2005-2006 school year. If the institutions meet all requirements during the planning year, additional funds will be available for the first and second operational years. The first class of students is expected to begin the program in fall 2006. To learn more about the program, please visit:

There will be an official program launch and reception to honor the grant recipients on October 6 at the Masonic Temple, 100 Barrack Street, Trenton. The program will begin at 5:30 p.m. All are welcomed to attend. Free parking is available at the State House parking lot, directly across the street from the Temple. For more information, contact Erin Geller,, 212.763.4379.

About NDSS

The National Down Syndrome Society is a nonprofit organization with more than 200 affiliates nationwide representing the more than 350,000 Americans who have this genetic condition. NDSS is committed to being the national leader in supporting and enhancing the quality of life, and realizing the potential of all people with Down syndrome. We demonstrate this commitment through our education, research and advocacy initiatives that benefit people with Down syndrome and their families.

About Mercer County Community College

Mercer County Community College is a comprehensive two year college offering 68 associate degree majors, credit and noncredit certificate programs, customized corporate training, youth enrichment programs and cultural opportunities.

About The College of New Jersey

The College of New Jersey, a primarily undergraduate institution, provides academically prepared students with a challenging education and a rewarding residential experience, small classes and a prestigious faculty. TCNJ has been recognized nationally for its excellence including in U.S. News and World Report, The Fiske Guide to Colleges, Barron's Profiles of American Colleges, and Peterson's Competitive Colleges. The College of New Jersey is located on 289 tree-lined acres in suburban Ewing, NJ.