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The University of Alabama

UA’s RISE Program Promotes 21 Students

NOTE TO MEDIA: Dress rehearsal for the RISE graduation ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday, July 24, at the Stallings Center.  RISE parents, including Ute Jocham, and Martha Cook, RISE director, will be available for interviews during that time.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — When Andy and Ute Jocham’s daughter was diagnosed with Down syndrome, the couple was told that early intervention would be the key to her success — and then they discovered The University of Alabama’s RISE program.

The family, who had moved from Germany to Tuscaloosa about 12 years ago for Andy’s job, applied to the school when their daughter, Mandy, was 9 months. Now, six years later, Mandy will walk across the stage with 20 other students at RISE’s annual commencement ceremony at 6 p.m. Thursday, July 24, at the Stallings Center on the UA campus. She is the only child at RISE who is tri-lingual, fluent in German, English and sign language.

“We are thrilled about her progress and cannot believe that she will graduate this year,” said her mother, Ute Jocham. “We were blessed to be part of such a wonderful program and want to say thank you to everybody who helped prepare our precious girl for her next phase in life.”

Mandy will begin kindergarten at Northport Elementary School in just a few short weeks.

This year’s graduation guest speaker is the UA football program’s director of strength and conditioning Scott Cochran, whose daughter, Savannah, is also graduating from RISE.

The RISE program, a part of the UA College of Human Environmental Sciences, serves children with disabilities and their typically developing peers, from ages 8 weeks to 5 years. The children are divided by age among six classes, each with 16 students, one teacher and three assistants. The school’s mission is the same as the University’s — teaching, service and research. The integrated preschool program not only benefits families in the community, it serves as a practicum and internship site for students from UA and other colleges.

According to Dr. Martha Cook, RISE director, the program has helped prepare more than 10,000 children, both disabled and nondisabled, for public school classes over the past 30 years. In 1999, RISE received accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children, a prestigious recognition achieved by only 7 percent of early childhood programs nationwide.

The RISE program, located in the Stallings Center and named for the family of former UA Head Football Coach Gene Stallings, looks like any other day care center, except provisions have been made to address the children’s specific disabilities. Classrooms, from infant to preschool, have been set up with age-appropriate toys, and each is staffed with a master’s level teacher and their aides.

Part of the RISE program also serves as a hands-on training facility for more than 2,500 UA students annually majoring in early childhood education, communicative disorders, nursing and social work.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.

  • CONTACT: Kim Eaton, UA media relations, 808/640-5912,; UA media relations, 205/348-5320