LSA Blog

Bethesda College Graduate Shares His Experience

Blog Date: 
Thursday, May 26, 2016
by Alec Shafer

The Bethesda College of Applied Learning is a unique, two-year post-secondary certificate program, the result of an innovative partnership with Concordia University Wisconsin (CUW) and Bethesda Lutheran Communities  that helps adults with intellectual, developmental and other complex disabilities realize their dream of receiving a college education.

On May 14, the first class from Bethesda College graduated alongside CUW Students on the University's campus in Mequon. Among the remarkable seven students in the inaugural class is Alec Shafer of Fox Point, Wisc. The LSA Disability Network asked Alec to share his thoughts on pursuing a college degree and what the experience has meant to him.

Note: Alec's mother Carole Shafer transcribed this reflection on behalf of Alec. Per Carole, "These are all Alec's thoughts. I typed as he spoke. I have not altered his information nor fixed his grammar. This is his blog. Very proud mama bear, Carole Shafer".

You have a lot to be proud of, Carole! Congratulations to Alec on his graduation, on behalf of LSA and our national network, we are all proud of him and his classmates.

Alec's Reflection on Becoming a College Graduate:
When I first came to college I was a little afraid because I didn't know directions to food or class or anything. I learned to walk fast and ask the other Concordia University Wisconsin (CUW) students questions when I needed help. They helped me out a lot. Now I help other students get around and answer their questions.

I am a tour guide for students looking at Bethesda College and I show them the Nest where there is good food (sometimes). I would show them my dorm room and how we have parties and snacks for Green Bay Packer games.

I've changed because I am like an adult now. I learned to focus on my homework first, then party time. I take care of myself and went to my internship by myself. I learned to do my own laundry, finish my chores and be nice to others. Even when they are not nice to me.

I am also a leader now for Best Buddies and an Ambassador for Bethesda College. Now I help others, not get help for myself all the time.

Graduation was a really big, big day for me.  I am really happy with myself because I walk on the stage. I was excited to see my R.A. Eli stand up and clap for us. Then others stood up and gave us a standing ovation. I felt awesome and I was surprised. My Bethesda College friends were happy with themselves too. After we took a lot of pictures with all my CUW friends like Big Liv, Megan, Hannah, Bennett and many other people that we know because they were really proud of us. When we were done, we went back home, my parents see me in the news and newspaper. Anybody in the U.S.A. can know us now. This world loves us. And God loves us and helps us when we are stressed. After Eli's standing ovation, I said to Eli thank you for standing up for us.

This world needs to trust us more. I was really proud of us. My dream to go to and now be done with college. Now I'm at home I feel excellent because I saw people see me. And saw me in the newspaper. Some people doubt us but more people love us and it impacts yourself that way. Woo hoo Alec Shafer made it this far.

I am taking the next step up for a new life for next year. Thank you for supporting us and Bethesda. 


About Bethesda College:
Bethesda College has courses in four core areas: academics, career preparation, adult living skills, and campus and community life. The students also audit Concordia classes and live in the dorms. The Bethesda College of Applied Learning is built on an inclusive model focused on academics and employment. Combining a liberal arts focus with skills development coursework, Bethesda College's curriculum is a blended model designed to help students grow intellectually, vocationally, socially, personally and spiritually.

Students enrolled in Bethesda College live on the CUW campus in integrated residence halls. At CUW they can build lifelong friendships, practice their faith and participate in clubs and student activities. The program is the only one in Wisconsin that blends the best practices of a nationwide service provider for people with developmental disabilities with the learning environment and resources of an accredited university.

Mike Thirtle, president and chief executive officer of Bethesda Lutheran Communities, lauded Concordia officials for starting the program, and Concordia students for participating as teaching assistants.

The other inaugural Bethesda College graduates are Christopher Brandt, Claire Chalupka, Rachel Hoffman, Mary Cate Neff, Thomas Scandrett and Kristen Van Handel.

Congratulations Bethesda College Class of 2016!

Learn more at:

Bethesda Lutheran Communities is a Christian organization headquartered in Wisconsin that provides homes and other services to people with developmental disabilities to help them live the lives they want. Bethesda Lutheran Communities is a member of the LSA network and an active participant in the LSA Disability Network (LSA-DN).

About LSA-DN:
Lutheran Services in America Disability Network (LSA-DN) is a nationwide association of Lutheran social ministry organizations, faith-based organizations and Lutheran professionals supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and related conditions. LSA-DN includes 27 members that provide support to more than 150,000 individuals in 32 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. For more information, visit:

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