Independent Living Center a huge step up from humble beginnings of TIL program. It will open in the fall

Taft College’s new Independent Living Center is nearing completion, but the sophomores in the program that teaches living skills to young adults with mild intellectual disabilities won’t get to enjoy it.

Construction delays won’t see the $14 million facility finished until early summer. Students were initially supposed to move in during the winter break. That was then moved to April, but continual delays didn’t allow that to happen either.

“It’s too bad they didn’t get to experience it,” said Jeff Ross, who coordinates disabled student services at TC and is co-founder of the school’s award-winning Transition to Independent Living (TIL) program. “It would have been nice for them to have been able to take advantage of what the new facility has to offer.”

The new Independent Living Center moves the 52-student program and staff from the aging six double-wide portable buildings cobbled together when the program was launched 15 years ago.

The Center will give staff and students considerably more elbow room and allow the program to expand.

“We plan to develop and market our curriculum,” Ross said. “We are going to offer teacher training on campus. People who come here for that can stay in (the Center’s) dorm rooms.”

TIL has established a relationship with educators in South Korea who want to replicate the program. There have been reciprocal visitations between the two.

Currently the program has 52 students. Half live on campus, half off in 11 homes or apartments the college owns or leases.

The new facility includes four residence pods – each with four rooms and electronic key access. Each student will have his or her own room with a shared bathroom. The rooms include ceiling fans, individually controlled heating/cooling systems and soft lighting.

Students will use three modern classrooms – one of them dedicated for kitchen training. It includes four double-door stainless steel refrigerators and four cooking ranges.

The classrooms will be equipped with laptop computers.

A spacious reception area with unique skylight, lounges, meeting rooms, offices and outdoor gathering area complete the facility.

Ross said a formal grand opening is planned for the fall.