UPDATE: 'Cutting Edge' program gives students with disabilities college experience

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Updated: Monday, April 14, 2014 --- 9:00 p.m.

In three weeks, Julianna Faulkner will graduate from Edgewood College.

"I'm excited and sad at the same time because there are a lot of people I've met," Faulkner said.

The 28-year-old is part of the Cutting Edge program at Edgewood College, a specialized education approach that gives students with developmental and intellectual disabilities who would normally have difficulty meeting standard admissions criteria for college the opportunity to attend a four-year college and have that typical college experience.

Like many of her Cutting Edge peers, Faulkner always wanted to get a higher education but didn't know if she'd be able to.

"When I was younger, I wanted to be in college and have that experience," she said.

Faulkner has Down syndrome, and with help from professors, peer mentors and friends just like her, she's learned how to overcome major obstacles that could have stopped her from pursuing her dream.

"I have my own business, called Pump it Up. I'm a motivational trainer," Faulkner said. "So I just make up all the workouts for them and they stick to it. It's awesome."

"The skills that our students learn while they're in college, it might not be the exact thing that other students are learning to get their degree, but the level of independence people have, the ability to create their goals and say this is what I want to do in the future, all of those are really excellent skills," said program director Dedra Hafner.

Hafner helps Cutting Edge students with both the academic and social aspects of college, from choosing appropriate courses to getting involved in school clubs to finding housing and jobs.

"Our students are a new voice on campus," Hafner said.

"My experience at Cutting Edge is amazing," Faulkner said. "I love this program."

The application process is separate from Edgewood College. And instead of looking mostly at grades, Hafner looks more at prospective students' motivation to attend college and how well they would fit into the program.

Cutting Edge students can either attend with the goal of earning a degree, a certificate or just gaining that college experience.

Posted Monday, April 14, 2014 --- 4:30 p.m.

Story from our news partner WLUK in Green Bay:

LITTLE CHUTE – It’s a moment Noah VanVooren’s parents never thought would happen.

Their son, a senior at Little Chute High School senior who has Down Syndrome, received an acceptance letter to college.

VanVooren will start classes at Edgewood College in Madison this fall, part of their Cutting Edge program. According to the school’s website, the program offers an “individualized approach to education and inclusion in college for students with intellectual developmental disabilities.”

VanVooren’s mother Kara says she’s excited for her son’s new opportunities.

You may remember VanVooren from last fall.

The Little Chute football team water boy came in for the last play of the last home game to score a touchdown.

Tonight on NBC15 News at 10, we'll learn more about the Edgewood College program that Noah was admitted to.

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