A new endowed scholarship at Bridgewater College will enhance support for students with autism spectrum disorder, further strengthening Bridgewater College’s Academic and Social Experience (BASE) program, a student-centered, individual support program for students on the autism spectrum that launched in fall 2022. The scholarship is funded by the Shenandoah Valley Autism Partnership (SVAP), an area nonprofit that works to improve the lives of all affected by autism through community awareness, effective training and support across the lifespan.
The BASE program at Bridgewater College is among the few programs of its kind in Virginia, particularly among small colleges. The program was established not only to meet an existing need but also to provide resources that were not readily available in the state and surrounding region. In its first year, the BASE program has supported nine BC students and is preparing to support four more in the coming academic year, all of whom are provided with peer mentors, academic coaching, small group social events and career counseling exclusive to BASE students, as well as early move-in and personalized guidance to facilitate the transition to college.
“Because the BASE program was new and we are all about community, we asked ourselves, ‘Where can we be the most impactful?’ The scholarship was one way we can do that,” said Leila Cosby Longcor, a board member for SVAP. “Our biggest hope is that it raises awareness for the program. These students are some of our thinkers and inventors, and we want to help build them for success.”
The SVAP Scholarship Fund will provide an annual scholarship to a student who self-identifies with autism spectrum disorder to the Academic Support and Disability Services Office at BC. SVAP’s annual fundraising 5K held each April will allow the group to continue to add to the scholarship fund and ensure its growth in perpetuity.
“We are grateful for the ongoing support and partnership we will have with SVAP in establishing an endowed scholarship for students with autism at the College. The gift will have a tremendous impact on the lives of our students and their families for generations to come,” said Margaret Benavides, Disability and BASE Program Coordinator at BC. “By helping students with autism spectrum disorder have better access to and more easily navigate higher education, the SVAP scholarship will allow students to focus on their academic, social and vocational goals.”
The first SVAP scholarship at Bridgewater College will be awarded in the 2023-24 academic year.
For more information on the BASE program or the SVAP Scholarship Fund, go to bridgewater.edu/base, call Bridgewater’s Office of Academic Support and Disability Services at (540) 828-5660 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.