CLEMSON — The ClemsonLIFE (Learning is for Everyone) program will have additional growth opportunities thanks to a $100,000 gift from Clemson alumnus Bob Stanzione and his wife, Kaye.

Kaye Stanzione (fourth from right) enjoys a tour of Clemson's indoor football practice facility with ClemsonLIFE students and Clemson staff.

Kaye Stanzione (fourth from right) tours Clemson’s indoor football practice facility with ClemsonLIFE students and Clemson staff.

The Stanziones also offered to give an additional $100,000 in matching funds to encourage financial support for the program.

Housed in the Eugene T. Moore School of Education, ClemsonLIFE provides a coordinated course of study at Clemson for students ages 18-23 who have intellectual disabilities.

The program teaches employment and independent-living skills through courses, job internships and campus and community participation. ClemsonLIFE has a dozen full-time and part-time staff members and nearly 200 Clemson student volunteers serving as tutors, mentors and “buddies” for daily social activities.

ClemsonLIFE was one of the first post-secondary education programs for individuals with intellectual disabilities in South Carolina when it opened its doors in 2009. Today, there are five such programs across the state. Its goal, according to founder and special education professor Joe Ryan, is to prepare students who graduate to be self-sufficient young adults prepared for employment and independent living.

“So often people tend to focus on what individuals with disabilities can’t do,” Ryan said. “We like to focus on teaching them what they can do. With that focus, they are ready for the world that awaits them after the program.”

ClemsonLIFE received national attention last winter when the heartwarming video of Rion Holcombe receiving his acceptance letter to the program went viral.

With the program’s early success and attention, Ryan hopes that ClemsonLIFE will become a model for other programs.

“This program is an important step in addressing a critical need across both South Carolina and the United States in helping students with disabilities transition successfully from high school to the work force,” Ryan said.

The program is funded solely by tuition and private donations and is capped at 19 students. With the Stanziones’ gift, ClemsonLIFE will be able to provide additional scholarships, thus enabling the program to reach more students.

“Students who wouldn’t ordinarily have the opportunity to be a part of ClemsonLIFE are here now because of the Stanziones’ generosity,” Ryan said. “Their donation will help our program grow, and we are grateful for their commitment and generosity.”

“The Stanziones’ gift will not only affect the lives of these incredible students, but will also help the program affect change related to serving young adults with intellectual disabilities,” said George Petersen, founding dean of the Eugene T. Moore School of Education. “The impact of their generosity will, no doubt, be far-reaching.”

The Stanziones have long-term connections with Clemson. They began their married life in Clemson housing and all three of their children attended Clemson. Bob is a 1969 Clemson mechanical engineering graduate and chairman and chief executive officer of ARRIS Group, Inc. a Suwanee, Ga.-based global communications technology leader. Kaye is an active volunteer and serves on the ClemsonLIFE advisory board.

“We believe that ClemsonLIFE is a life-changing initiative and we are honored to participate in this way,” Bob Stanzione said. “We hope our gift will inspire others to support the students in this wonderful program, and we have committed to match the next $100,000 that is donated to ClemsonLIFE.”

Students supported by the Stanziones’ gift will be known as Monarch Scholars as a tribute to both family and ClemsonLIFE students, according to Kaye Stanzione.

“We think that butterflies are an appropriate symbol for how we hope the ClemsonLIFE students will morph and change as they participate in the program,” she said. “The name also honors Bob’s mother, who loved butterflies, and is inspired by the monarch butterfly, whose colors remind us of tiger stripes and the Clemson spirit. We are pleased to support these scholars and help them soar.”

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