The University of Maryland Baltimore County will host the state's first four-year, post-high-school education program for students with intellectual disabilities, Gov.Martin O'Malley announced Thursday.

The program is designed to help students develop independence, problem-solving and employment skills while experiencing college life with their peers. In a statement Thursday, O'Malley called the program "an outstanding opportunity to support young people with intellectual disabilities as they expand their horizons and accomplish their goals beyond secondary education."

Though the program will not offer college credit, participants will take a seminar class with degree-seeking students, lead a service learning project and intern at on-campus departments. The program, which will begin this fall with six to eight students, will be housed at the university's Shriver Center, which promotes civic engagement and service learning.

UMBC President Freeman A. Hrabowski III called the program an example of "innovation and creativity" on his campus.

childs.walker@baltsun.com

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