An award-winning student-run program for young adults with intellectual disabilities adapts and continues during the pandemic under its dedicated leader

Headshot of Ted Bolte

Ted Bolte ’21 was attracted to VUnited from the moment he heard its mission: enhancing the lives of individuals with intellectual disabilities and introducing them to a college experience with social and academic components.

Under Ted’s leadership as student director, a team of more than 40 Villanova students forged ahead over the past year when COVID-19 threatened to put their efforts on pause. In fact, the student-run organization—along with mentor Steve McWilliams, PhD, MFA, ’92 MA, director of Disability Services—was recognized in the midst of it, receiving the One Body in Christ award in April 2021 from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for its “innovative, inclusive programing.”

“Anything can be accomplished when you are working with a great group of people,” says Ted. “VUnited being able to not only survive, but thrive, during the pandemic is a testament to that.”

In fall 2020, Ted recruited VUnited’s first virtual cohort—15 students from the local community, all high school graduates over the age of 18. “VUnited wants to provide opportunities for these students to engage in the community, and we know the opportunities available decrease tremendously following the completion of high school,” Ted explains.

Refusing to let the pandemic take this opportunity away, VUnited took its seven-week life skills program online each Saturday morning. They delivered the same academic modules aimed at enhancing the students’ independence and job skill preparation while also maintaining the mentorship component and relationship building that is such a crucial part of the program. “For those two hours, everything felt almost normal again,” Ted says. “It was a feeling of togetherness, which everyone needed more than ever during the pandemic.”


VUnited 101

Each fall, the VUnited Program welcomes a new cohort of about 15 local young adults with intellectual disabilities. For two hours each Saturday morning, VUnited participants work with Villanova students to further develop a pivotal life skill to enhance their independence: math and money, health and nutrition, fitness, cooking, and professionalism and internet safety.