PIECE program at Western awarded $1 million grant

By Aaron Newton
Polk County Itemizer-Observer

The Teaching Research Institute at Western Oregon University was awarded a $1 million grant this month from the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs.

The grant will aid 45 students in the Promoting Inclusion in Early Childhood Education (PIECE) program, starting this winter, to receive bachelor’s degrees and early intervention/early childhood special education endorsements.

The program focuses on meeting the needs of children with disabilities while including them with normally developing children in a classroom setting.

WOU’s education program has been the backbone of the school for many years and this grant will help further strengthen it, Cindy Ryan, PIECE program co-director, said.

“What we’re doing is bringing in the early childhood community into our university,” she said. “We’ve always had a nationally known teacher education program. This grant will really help us open doors.”

The College of Education began the highly competitive application process back in March and was notified last week they, along with eight other schools across the country, were awarded the grant.

The 45 students will be broken up into cohorts of 15 students. Students who have received an associate degree are eligible for the program.

The five-year grant will go toward tuition, fees and books for each student.

Students are required to sign a two-year service agreement after completing the program.

“Most granting agencies have a service obligation, so you can’t just go through the program and become a used-car salesman,” co-director Patti Blasco said. “We’re really excited. This is a dream come true for us.”

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