Laura Seitz, Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Zoe VanWinkle helps Bubba Glodowski, a Kauri Sue Hamilton School student, into the Cottonwood Heights Recreation Center on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012.

SALT LAKE CITY — A team of six states, led by Utah, has been selected to share a $32.5 million grant aimed at preparing students with disabilities for college and careers, the U.S. Department of Education announced Tuesday.

A total of $211 million in five-year grants was awarded to five individual states and the consortium of six states — of which Utah serves as lead state — as part of the department's Promoting the Readiness of Minors in Supplemental Security Income, or PROMISE initiative.

"All children deserve a chance to achieve their educational and career goals," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a prepared statement. "The PROMISE initiative provides services and support to help our most at-risk students and their families so that they can focus on their education and a brighter future."

Russell Thelin, executive director of the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation, said Utah's share of the grant money will be somewhere between $6.5 million and $7 million. The grant will be used for a program in which 2,000 students ages 14 to 16 who receive Social Security income from disability benefits will be identified from Utah, Colorado, Arizona, South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana, he said.

Those 2,000 students will then be divided into a focus group and control group, allowing researches to study how targeted interventions contribute to students succeeding in schooling and advancing toward higher education and careers.

"The fact that they’re getting (Social Security income) at that age really is an indication that their families, overall, are living in poverty," Thelin said. "This isn’t just about the student. We’re also trying to address changing the cycle of poverty of families these students are a part of."

Each state is responsible for selecting students to participate in the grant. Thelin said Utah officials have initiated the process of applying for the grant, including inviting neighboring states to join the consortium.

"The other states are states that we’ve got a long-standing relationship with," he said. "They recognized Utah as an innovative and productive state."


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