It only takes a spark to light a flame. Jessica Taylor Weitz is a testament to that. A lifelong competitive swimmer, Jessica’s experience working with special-needs children in the pool during college has led her to take an interest in the ClemsonLIFE program. Her parents, Jonathan Weitz ’90 and Lisa Weitz ’90, established the Jessica Taylor Weitz Endowment for ClemsonLIFE in honor of Jessica’s passions.
Jessica first began working with special-needs children as a student and swimmer at Tulane University. She often took time out of her intense training schedule to help students learn the joys of swimming. Whether they were dipping their toes in the water or swimming laps unassisted, Jessica was there to help every step of the way. It was during these moments that Jessica found her passion to help those with intellectual disabilities.
The ClemsonLIFE program, in a similar way, acts as a helping hand for its students. The program offers an on-campus collegiate experience that prepares young people with intellectual disabilities for competitive employment and independent living through a combination of academic coursework and career exploration. With around 40 students in the program, ClemsonLIFE acts as a catalyst for personal growth, teaching lessons that many of us take for granted. Students learn functional mathematics and literacy, independent living skills, health and wellness, and self-advocacy. A day’s lesson may also include proper texting etiquette, grocery shopping or hosting a party. These practical skills allow students to live independent, joyful lives.
Because of this, ClemsonLIFE students have a 44 percent independent living rate and an 84 percent current employment rate, compared to national rates of 21 percent and 14 percent, respectively.
Because of Jessica Weitz’s charitable spirit and her parents’ philanthropy, ClemsonLIFE students will be able to continue to experience this outstanding program.