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Welcome to STAIRs

Skills Training, Advancement and Individual Readiness


The STAIRs (Skills Training, Advancement, and Individual Readiness) Program at Mitchell supports participants as they transition from college into the workforce or pursuit of an advanced degree.


Transitioning from college to independence, graduate study, or gainful employment is not always easy, especially for neurodivergent graduates. The STAIRs program was developed to prepare students who need extra time to achieve emotional readiness, confidence, seek employment/start careers and reach personal goals.


In today’s world you must know how to adapt to rapid change, function as a member of different communities, and navigate social situations. As part of a truly supportive cohort of young persons on a similar journey to realize their dreams, we prepare students to thrive in new and challenging environments. Participants benefit from:
    • Individualized Attention
    • Personal Exploration
    • Occupational and Research-based Skills Training
    • Social Embeddedness
    • Lifelong Connections


The STAIRs program is designed with three areas of concentration:
    1. AIM Basics — Independent Living and Life Skills
    2. Career Intensive/Focused
    3. Academic Exploration/Graduate School
All concentrations offer:
    • Skill Development Workshops
    • Career Prep and Job Discovery
    • Experiential Learning
    • Community Connections and Experiences (Cohort Development)


Program Terminology

Community Governance

The college-owned housing will be guided through a form of self-governance. The participants in the program will set the community guidelines and rules of the house under the guidance of the program coordinator and mentors.

Emotional Intelligence

The ability to be aware of, manage, and express one’s emotions, and to negotiate interpersonal relationships thoughtfully and compassionately.

Financial Literacy

The possession of skills and knowledge that allows an individual to make informed and effective decisions with their finances including budgeting, managing debt, savings and investing.

Holistic Wellness

An approach to wellness that considers the whole person caring for the mind, body and spirit. It incorporates physical, mental, emotional, social, intellectual and spiritual wellness, as well as the individual’s environment. 

Independent Living

The ability to exercise the greatest degree of choice about where one lives, works and socializes. It goes beyond living on one’s own, but is about self-determination and includes being employed in work that matched ones’ interests, capabilities and skills while having an active and safe social life.


There is an increasing awareness and understanding in our society that some people have brain differences that affect how their brain works. The term often used to capture these differences is neurodivergent. Neurodivergent individuals have different strengths, and challenges, from people whose brains don’t have those differences. Possible differences include medical disorders, learning disabilities and other conditions. Neurodivergence manifests in many different ways, from very subtle ways that most people would never notice to more obvious ways that lead to a person behaving differently than is considered “typical” in our society.

Service/Community Engagement

Working collaboratively with and through community groups or affiliations. This requires intentional interactions between program participants and the communities in which they live and work.

STAIRs Events Calendar

[Coming Soon!]

, Mitchell College

Noah Blocker-Glynn

STAIRs Coordinator

East Winds Building

, Mitchell College

The STAIRs program builds on the inclusive nature of the Mitchell College educational experience, offering recent college graduates additional guidance, tools, and support for success in their next steps.

Alicia Martinez, E.D., M.S.O.L.
Dean, Student Experience and Belonging, Chief Student Affairs Officer

, Mitchell College
, Mitchell College
, Mitchell College
, Mitchell College


All students complete the AIM Basics program, which incorporates independent living, career readiness, social/interpersonal skills, and holistic wellness in a supportive environment with the goal of producing self-sufficient adults ready to pursue independence and sustain employment.

Once students have completed this foundational portion of the program, they can select one concentrating program on career readiness or graduate study. Below are the skill areas that will be developed through the program.

Independent Living

    • During Year 1, students live in a college-owned house located near, but not on, the Mitchell College campus. Second-year participants will move into local housing and commute to campus for workshops and community events.
    • Guided Community Governance/Self-Governance
    • Independent Living Skills/Workshops
    • Cooking classes resulting in preparation of community meals
    • Financial literacy and banking
    • Assistance identifying and applying for local apartments prior to Year 2

Career Readiness

    • Career Workshops: Resume writing, interview skills, Group Career Assessments, etc.
    • Employee Rights and Employment Accommodations
    • Service Learning

Social, Emotional & Interpersonal Skills Development

    • Workshops: Healthy Relationships, Care-frontation techniques, self-advocacy, growth mindset, etc.
    • Participation in local clubs and community organizations
    • Interaction with Mitchell College Students and Staff

Holistic Wellness

    • Nutrition and Wellness Activities
    • Personal Fitness Training/Self-Defense
    • Hygiene Practices
    • Healthy Relationships and Boundary setting


This schedule is provided as a sample only. Activities and times subject to change.


9:30am Independent Living
Noon Lunch
1:00pm Career Exploration/Readiness
3:00pm Fitness/Active Learning
5:00pm Dinner
9:00am Emotional Intelligence/Socioeconomic Learning
11:00am Holistic Wellness Workshops/Cooking Basics
12:15pm Lunch
1:30pm Service/Community Engagement
4:00pm Club/Group Activity
5:00pm Dinner
9:00am Financial Literacy /Critical Thinking
Noon Lunch
1:00pm Service Learning  Reflective Exercise
3:30pm Fitness/Active Learning
5:00pm Dinner
7:00pm Community Governance/Group Activity
Grocery Shopping
Recreational Events/Outings
Spirituality/Religious Services (or practicing)


Students who have successfully met the benchmarks for the AIM Basics Program are able to transition into one of two STAIRs hubs. Descriptions of the hubs, along with sample schedules, are below.

Hub #1 — Career Intensive/Focused
Hub #2 — Academic Exploration/Graduate School

Hub #1 — Career Intensive/Focused

In contrast to popular belief, finding a career that matches your skillset and that you love is not easy. It is a process that takes time and requires patience, self-awareness and some exploration. STAIRs’ Career Intensive Hub was developed to support students with diverse or undecided career goals through this process as they explore interests and passions while building the skills necessary to be successful in their chosen fields.

Program Stages

    1. Career Exploration — Identify Areas of Interest and Capacity
    2. Goal Setting and Workforce Preparation
    3. Internship/Employment Search and Application
    4. Universal Technical and Soft Skills Training


    • Baseline Competencies
    • Targets
    • Final Assessment

Career Intensive Sample Schedule

This schedule is provided as a sample only. Activities and times subject to change.

Monday/Wednesday Monday/Wednesday
8:30am Group Check-in/Advising 8:30am Group Check-in/Advising
9:00am–1:00pm Work/Internship 9:00am–Noon Work-Based Skills Lab
1:30pm Lunch 12:30pm Lunch
2:30–5:30pm Work-Based Skills lab 1:30–5:30pm Work/Internship
6:00pm Dinner 6:00pm Dinner
Tuesday/Thursday Tuesday/Thursday
8:30am Group Check-in/Advising 8:30am Group Check-in/Advising
9:00am–1:00pm Work/Internship 9:00am–Noon Career Seminars/Service
1:30pm Lunch 12:30pm Lunch
2:30–5:30pm Career Seminars/Service 1:30–5:30pm Work/Internship
6:00pm Dinner 6:00pm Dinner
7:00pm Club/Group Activity 7:00pm Club/Group Activity
Friday Friday
9:00am Financial Literacy 9:00am Financial Literacy
Noon Lunch Noon Lunch
1:00pm Service/Internship Reflective Exercise 1:00pm Service/Internship Reflective Exercise
3:30pm Fitness/Active Learning 3:30pm Fitness/Active Learning
5:00pm Dinner 5:00pm Dinner
7:00pm Community Governance/Group Activity 7:00pm Community Governance/Group Activity
Saturday/Sunday Saturday/Sunday
Grocery Shopping Grocery Shopping
Recreation Events/Outings Recreation Events/Outings

Hub #2 — Academic Exploration/Graduate School

The Graduate School preparedness hub will support students with a bachelor’s degree as they create effective application packets for graduate programs of their choosing, and provides students with opportunities to grow and practice the skills they will need for success in their graduate education.

Program Stages

      1. Academic Skills Development — Develop the Skills Needed to Succeed in Graduate School
      2. Program Identification & Exploration — Find Appropriate Programs for Particular Career and Academic Goals
      3. Application Preparation — Develop Effective Graduate School Applications
      4. Graduate Program Exploration


  • Passion for the subject area or field in your chosen graduate course of study
  • Ability to successfully complete a graduate program
  • Reason for attending graduate school in a certain field; understanding of how graduate study will help achieve your goal


  • Demonstrate Readiness Skills
  • Identify Graduate Program(s)
  • Prepare for Application

Academic Exploration: Sample Schedule

This schedule is provided as a sample only. Activities and times subject to change.

9:30am–12:30pm TBD
1:00pm Lunch
2:30–5:30pm TBD
6:00pm Dinner
9:00am TBD
11:00am TBD
12:15pm Lunch
1:30pm Academic Skills Lab
4:00pm Club/Group Activity
5:00pm Dinner
9:00am Financial Literacy; Student loan repayment, graduate expenses, etc.
Noon Lunch
1:00pm Service/Internship Reflective Exercise
3:30pm Fitness/Active Learning
5:00pm Dinner
7:00pm Community Governance/Group Activity
Grocery Shopping
Recreational Events/Outings

How to Apply

It is recommended that students and families attend a virtual information session and consider scheduling an in-person visit prior to applying.

STEP 1: Attend Information Session

Click to Register for Information Session

STEP 2: Complete Application Form
Applicants must complete and submit the 2024–2025 STAIRs Application for Admission. Acceptances will be sent out on a rolling basis by email.
STEP 3: Complete Interview

Eligible applicants will be invited to attend a virtual interview with the review committee to confirm fit/eligibility for the program.


Fall 2023 Start—Currently accepting applications.

Program Admission

To be eligible for the STAIRs program, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Has basic mathematics understanding; can use a calculator
  • Can utilize technology (cell phone, laptop, etc.) on a basic level
  • Primary disability must be cognitive, not behavioral or emotional
  • Has the ability to independently self-administer and manage medication, specialized dietary, and/or medical needs
    Note: STAIRs personnel are not available to manage/administer medication and take no responsibility for specialized diets or medical needs
  • Has parents/support system who will support his/her independence

Program Cost

12-month Program Fee = $25,000

Housing (Year 1) = $10,000*
Includes furnished room, utilities and other amenities.

Meal Plan = Varies**

Activities Fee = $1,500

Total Year 1 = $36,500
Total Year 2 = $26,500

* Year 2 housing is optional; no residency requirement.
** Costs are determined by selected meal plan. Meals served in Dining Hall during regular hall hours. NOTE: Dining Hall is closed during certain holidays and breaks.



Throughout the STAIRs program, participants benefit from being in a community environment. The program’s central location in a residential New London neighborhood — just blocks from Mitchell College and other amenities — offers a wide range of experiences and opportunities for learning to live independently in a small city rich with resources:

  • Recreational/Excercise Activities
  • Diverse Natural Environments (Mitchell beach, Mitchell woods, public beaches and parks)
  • Downtown New London: dining, shopping, entertainment, historic and cultural landmarks

As part of a close cohort, students gain skills and confidence through the structural design of the program:

  • Guided Community Governance/Self-Governance
  • Hub Communities
  • Community Library
  • Skills Development Center

YEAR 1: AIM Basics — Residency Required

The residential experience in Year 1 is an important part of the AIM Basics program, giving participants the experience of living and learning as part of a “family” style community.

  • Single- and double-room occupancy options
  • Community kitchen and social lounge

Year 2: Option to Live Off-site

After particpants have completed the AIM Basics program they are encouraged to move into a more independent living situation in New London or the surrounding area.

, Mitchell College

Eastwinds, home base for STAIRs, is located in a charming historic home in a quiet residential neighborhood on the banks of the Thames River in New London, CT.

, Mitchell College

Above and below: Views of the river from Eastwinds.

, Mitchell College


, Mitchell College

Alicia Martinez, Ed.D., M.S.O.L.

Dean of Student Experience and Belonging,
Chief Student Affairs Officer
Duques Center

, Mitchell College

Alexandria "Alex" Donkor

Director of Residence Life and Student Conduct
Duques Center 211

, Mitchell College

Gizelle Tircuit, Ph.D., L.P.C

Director of Health and Wellness
Health Center
Yarnall Center 2nd Floor

, Mitchell College

Paul Dunn

Integrative Career Development Coordinator
Duques Center 213