Everyone can reach for something greater in their lives. And Edie Cusack ’90, director of the College’s REACH Program – a four-year, fully-inclusive post-secondary program for adults with mild intellectual and/or developmental disabilities – is among those making sure everyone has that chance.
That’s why this weekend the City of Charleston will thank her for her many accomplishments by proclaiming Dec. 3, 2017, as Edie Cusack Day.
In 2010, Cusack came to the College to create and develop the REACH Program to offer students with intellectual or developmental disabilities the opportunity to participate in every aspect of college life. Through the years she has been instrumental in the development, implementation and maintenance of all aspects of this unique program.
According to Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg’s proclamation, Cusack is being honored for “the contributions she has made to our city, state, country and the world in the arena of post-secondary education for people with disabilities.” Edie Cusack Day in Charleston also coincides with the United Nation’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
“I was genuinely surprised when I found out, and I feel so honored and humbled,” says Cusack. “It’s not the sort of work you go into for honor or recognition, but when it happens, it’s really nice.”
The REACH Program promotes the advancement of knowledge and skills in the areas of academics, socialization, independent living, and career development for qualifying students, and has been nationally recognized for its commitment to full inclusion and self-determination. Students in the REACH Program are able to participate in all activities offered by the College of Charleston, with individualized support for success.
“I think being a liberal arts institution lends itself well to creating an inclusive learning environment for students with disabilities,” Cusack says. “The willingness and cooperation of the faculty and staff have turned what some considered an impossible task into an incredible achievement.”
Before joining the College of Charleston, Cusack, a nationally board certified teacher, spent over 20 years teaching special education in public schools in both South Carolina and New Jersey. She has also worked with many advocacy groups across the state to improve student access to education, independence and equal opportunity.
So how does she plan to spend Edie Cusack Day?
“In the morning, I’ll be working on a project with some individuals with disabilities that involves self-determination and person-centered planning,” she says. “Then, I’ll go out to dinner with my family to celebrate.”