CILLS Program Provides OpportunitiesStudents with Disabilities Experience Independence

Photo Courtesy / ESU PR Rachel Grace showing off her acceptance letter into the CILLS Program. Photo Courtesy / ESU PR
Rachel Grace showing off her acceptance letter into the CILLS Program.

By Ryan McFadden
Staff Writer

Young adults with intellectual disabilities have an opportunity to improve their futures by learning to live independently within the community of ESU.

The Career Independent Living and Learning Studies (CILLS) program is designed to accommodate students with learning and developmental disabilities.

The program helps to build life skills by offering specialized courses and an off-campus apartment to live in.

“You have to remember that most of these kids have never ever had this kind of experience,” said Dr. Domenico Cavaiuolo, CILLS creator and coordinator.

As this program grows, ESU continues to change young lives and to break new ground in the field of special education.

“Programs like this 30 to 40 years ago, people would have laughed at,” said Cavaiuolo.

“I mean it’s just amazing to see the kind of progress I think we have made as a field, that kids are getting this opportunity, and to have it here at ESU is special.”

Cavaiuolo created CILLS seven years ago and it has gained popularity ever since, growing from six to 23 participants.

According to Cavaiuolo, the program relies on and revolves around its mentors.

They are a group of ESU students that dedicate time and effort to the participants of CILLS.

The mentors help to include the students in activities to support their social inclusion.

On the weekends, the mentors go to the students’ apartments to hang out with them.

They spend time together however the students choose.

Stephanie, senior and student mentor, said her favorite part of CILLS is “all getting together.”

During the first year, participants take classes to develop the skills that make independence possible, such as personal finances.

By the third year, these same students can choose internships which reflect their own personal interests.

“Quite frankly they surprise everybody,” said Cavaiuolo, “they surprise us with the way they interact with people, the way they can get around campus and do stuff, it surprises families and that’s why we have such a demand for it.”

Kimi, a student in the CILLS program said her favorite thing about ESU is “worling out, and hanging out with friends.”

For more information on the CILLS program, visit their webpage at, call (570) 422-3416 or stop by Stroud 105.

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