Above photo: Quan Jones (pictured in blue hat) was left dismayed after the USF system’s decision to cancel Project 10 STING RAY in late December. STING RAY allowed students with intellectual, physical and emotional disabilities to enroll as non-degree seeking and get the full college experience. Courtesy of Project 10 STING RAY
By Quan Jones
Project 10 STING RAY has been around USF St. Petersburg since 2010, but was ended without explanation.
As a former Project 10 STING RAY student, I have to ask: How could the USF system do this to us?
The traditional students and staff on our campus connect with the students of STING RAY very easily and treat them like everyone else on campus.
These students are not only those with intellectual disabilities, but physical and emotional disabilities as well. Beyond these disabilities, we are the same as traditional degree-seeking students, taking classes and enjoying the college experience.
Not only does this affect our STING RAY students as they are forced to switch to different programs, but traditional students and staff are quite upset about the unexpected change.
Everyone knows about this program and how it benefits USF St. Petersburg, especially students that are interested in working in the special education field.
As soon as I heard what happened, I questioned how the university could do this to us. Our students were looking forward to a brand new semester, and to hear this news is a slap in the face.
I realize that our STING RAY students who have disabilities only have limited options because they graduated high school with a special diploma, and going to a university is not typically on the list.
However, the unfortunate truth is that earning a degree is the only option if you want a successful, stable career.
USF St. Petersburg offered a great program allowing special diploma students to enroll as non-degree seeking and get the experience.
But unfortunately, they now want to turn us down with no justification.
We would like to know more answers about why this is happening.
Is it because some in the USF system don’t think our program is going to benefit anyone? Do they only want to focus on the degree-seeking students, or do they just want to shut it down because they don’t see it as part of the Vision 20/20 Strategic Plan?
If so, they couldn’t be more wrong.
Students from different states came to see STING RAY, which brought attention to our university. The program offered benefits for the entire campus, benefits which died alongside STING RAY.
What’s next for me, a former STING RAY student, is to get my GED, enroll at St. Petersburg College and major in journalism.
I know my path and can achieve it without STING RAY, but I can’t say the rest of the students are as lucky.