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Mercyhurst North East Oasis Program topic at Rotary Club meeting

May 1, 2017
Westfield Republican

Members of the Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville learned about the Mercyhurst North East (MNE) Oasis Program from Katie Huba, MNE Oasis Program Director, during their meeting of April 11 at The Parkview in Westfield. Huba, who was the guest presenter, offered an overview to this unique, college-based certificate program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The Oasis Program is a non-credit, one- to two-year proficiency-based certificate program for students who have completed high school (ages 18 and older). It is designed to help students who are interested in pursuing additional academic and vocational training to develop skills that are necessary for gainful employment. Oasis currently offers four certificate areas in culinary arts, hospitality, business, and early childhood program. Future additional certificate options under consideration include sports management and also graphic design.

Huba, who will earn her master's degree in applied behavior analysis from Mercyhurst University this May, received her bachelor's degree in speech and hearing sciences from Edinboro University. Prior to her leading the MNE Oasis Program, she was employed as a patient advocate at a local hospital, and also a residential manager at a group home for adults within the community.

Article Photos

Katie Huba (right), Mercyhurst North East Oasis Program Director, shows some program literature to Sue Hammond (left), Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville Public Relations Chair. Huba was the guest presenter at the April 11 meeting of this Rotary Club, and Hammond was the program sponsor.

"We are typically asked one extremely important question during our time in high school," Huba stated. "What do you want to do for the rest of your life? When I was in high school, I had an idea, but for the most part, no clue. However, I never stopped to think about the people who were not asked that question. They were simply told what they could do, versus what they wanted to do."

Huba continued, "During my post-secondary education, I had the opportunity to work in a community-based facility for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. These adults went to work every day in a workshop and were asked to work on mundane jobs of no interest to them. Problematic behaviors occurred often, and it was simply discarded as 'part of their disability'. However, I thought otherwise. What if we give them a choice, a choice to obtain a meaningful lifestyle?"

"The Oasis Program gives the students in our surrounding communities an opportunity to have a choice," Huba said. "During my time with this program, I have seen students who were thought not to be able to succeed, actually go beyond the point of success. Our students are given the appropriate tools to learn skills that will give them the lifestyle they so strongly desire. I believe the Oasis Program has so much to offer students of this population. As this program continues to grow, I know that it will strengthen the lives of the students who are enrolled in it."

Per the MNE Oasis Program, participants need to have some form of reliable and functional communication, have some basic math and reading skills, and be able to physically perform all lab related tasks in a safe manner. Students who attend usually have/had an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 plan during school, which ensures that students have access to programming in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Oasis Program students typically do not meet the admissions requirements for traditional degrees or programs. Sometimes the students may feel that they would not be successful in pursuing such a degree. Those enrolled in this program get the full college experience, with the only difference being that their courses are not credit-bearing. If they choose to live on campus, they are assigned peer mentors. All of the areas include hands-on training. Students work on academic and vocational skills, as well as "soft skills" to make them more employable. The MNE Oasis Program is specifically designed to give students the skills they need to succeed in the workplace environment. Students need to have an interest in their concentration area of study.

For the culinary arts certificate, students prepare, cook and plate meals; learn kitchen safety and effective communication in a professional kitchen setting; and learn proper food handling, food safety, and sanitation (Safe Serve Certificate). Components of this area of study include cooking and baking lectures and labs, as well as food service experience.

The hospitality certificate concentration area consists of "front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house" experiences. Topics covered are introduction to hospitality management, safety and sanitation (Serve Safe Certificate), introduction to event planning, and housekeeping operations.

In the early childhood certificate program, the topics are foundations of childhood education, health and wellness, instructional strategies, and age-appropriate materials and practices that support reading and language development. There are seminars in early childhood education, as well as elective courses. This area of study includes the Child Development Associate (CDA) eligibility option.

During the business certificate program, students learn skills that make it possible for them to work in a business environment, such as management, marketing and computer skills. Areas of focus are principles of management, computer applications, advanced computer applications, and principles of integrated marketing.

All of the certificate areas have a tutorial aspect that includes review, remediation, test preparation, social skills, employment preparation, soft and hard skills, mock interviews, resume writing, and cover letter writing. This is all done through individualized instruction. Each program of study has rubrics, and students receive mid-term and end of term grades. They are evaluated on such items as clothing and appearance, certificate specific skills, teamwork, and time management.

The Oasis Program includes a 60-hour summer internship that offers students "real world" experiences. It gives them networking opportunities, and it often leads to direct employment. According to Huba, to date, 85 percent of the students who have completed their Oasis Program certificate area of study, are either employed within their community or are pursuing other post-secondary education.

The current cost for this program is $8,400 per year, which includes instructional materials (courses, tutorials, etc.), textbooks and program fees (such as culinary fees for supplies). Students who are interested in residing on campus pay an additional $4,812 per semester to cover room and board. There are some sources of funding to assist with program costs, such as Federal Financial Aid (two-year program of study only), scholarships, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) support, waiver funding, and private pay. Students are required to arrange their own transportation, and to provide their own notebooks, writing implements, and meals.

MNE Oasis Program applications are available upon request. Students will need to complete the application and a self-report assessment, submit three letters of recommendations and reference surveys from non-family members, provide one letter of recommendation and reference survey from a family member or guardian, and give a copy of their more recent IEP, Behavior Plan, and/or 504 plan. These documents will be used to determine any necessary accommodations, if the candidate is accepted. Another part of the application process is an interview with the Oasis Program director and other Mercyhurst staff.

Application and survey forms are available online at For more information, contact Katie Huba, MNE Oasis Program Director, at 814-725-6299 or Check out the Oasis Program on Facebook at



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