Lindy wanted to help her brother, so she started a col­lege for adults with spe­cial needs!

Lindy Cleve­land was sad­dened when her brother, Jor­dan, who has Down syn­drome, was un­able to go to col­lege af­ter he fin­ished high school. So she de­cided to do some­thing to help him— and ended up chang­ing the lives of so many oth­ers!

Woman's World - - Contents - —Bill Holton

L indy Cleve­land bub­bled with ex­cite­ment as her fam­ily helped her move into her col­lege dorm. But then her eyes fell on her big brother, Jor­dan, who has Down syn­drome, sit­ting off by him­self.

“I wish I could go to col­lege too,” Jor­dan sighed, and his sad, yearn­ing ex­pres­sion tore at Lindy’s heart.

It’s not fair… there should be a col­lege for peo­ple with spe­cial needs, Lindy thought. Ev­ery­one de­serves a chance to make his or her dreams come true.

A sis­ter’s end­less love

Grow­ing up, Jor­dan had al­ways been eager to learn. He worked hard in his spe­cial-ed classes and beamed with pride when, at 21, he re­ceived his high school diploma. But af­ter grad­u­a­tion, his par­ents couldn’t find an adult pro­gram close to their home near Ves­tavia Hills, Alabama, that suited Jor­dan’s abil­i­ties. And be­cause he has pul­monary hy­per­ten­sion that re­quires oxy­gen, Jor­dan was un­able to get a job at a store or su­per­mar­ket like many of his friends.

So their mom re­tired from be­ing a school­teacher to work with Jor­dan her­self. But mostly, he spent his days watch­ing TV and play­ing video games on his own.

When Lindy came home on col­lege breaks, her heart ached see­ing Jor­dan so with­drawn and iso­lated.

Then one sum­mer while Lindy was work­ing at a spe­cial needs camp, the kids

watched Dr. Seuss’s The Lo­rax, a story about the im­por­tance of pre­serv­ing the en­vi­ron­ment. Her heart jumped when the Lo­rax spoke his fa­mous line, “Un­less some­one like you cares a whole aw­ful lot, noth­ing is go­ing to get bet­ter. It’s not.”

He’s right, Lindy gasped. Wish­ing Jor­dan could go to col­lege wasn’t go­ing to make it hap­pen. Some­one had to care enough to make it hap­pen for him— and that some­one is me!

New be­gin­nings

That fall, Lindy changed her ma­jor to hu­man de­vel­op­ment and fam­ily life ed­u­ca­tion. And when, in her fi­nal se­mes­ter, she took a grant-writ­ing course and the class project was to cre­ate a mock non­profit, Lindy told her pro­fes­sor, “I’m go­ing to start a col­lege for my brother and other spe­cial needs adults, but it won’t just be a project…i’ll do it for real.” I’ ll call it Un­less U, she smiled, a nod to Dr. Seuss. Lindy got started by hold­ing fund-rais­ers to pay for sup­plies, and her mom signed on to teach. Through friends in the spe­cial needs com­mu­nity, Lindy re­cruited four class­mates for Jor­dan, and in the sum­mer of 2014, they held their first course in her par­ents’ home. Jor­dan’s eyes lit up when Lindy told him that he was go­ing to col­lege. And the other stu­dents were just as en­thu­si­as­tic. They stud­ied ev­ery­thing from fine arts and tech­nol­ogy to cook­ing and crafts. “Thank you for giv­ing my son this op­por­tu­nity,” one mother told Lindy. “It’s changed his life.”

As more par­ents looked to en­roll their chil­dren, Lindy moved her school into her church base­ment. And to­day, Un­less U (Un­lessu.org) has 50 stu­dents en­rolled in a va­ri­ety of cour­ses and team ac­tiv­i­ties such as dance, drama, bas­ket­ball and cheer­lead­ing.

But Lindy’s star stu­dent will al­ways be Jor­dan. Now 32, he has blos­somed aca­dem­i­cally and so­cially. And re­cently Un­less U broke ground on a new cam­pus, so they’ll have room to grow. Jor­dan stood awestruck at his sis­ter’s side. “You did all this for me?” he mar­veled, and Lindy could barely speak over the lump in her throat. “Yes,” she said. “Be­cause I love you, and be­cause I care a whole aw­ful lot.”

“Ev­ery­one de­serves a chance to learn, grow and build a beau­ti­ful life,” says Lindy

“Jor­dan and I have al­ways been very close. As kids, we’d play to­gether, and I’d al­ways tell him how spe­cial he was. We were— and still are— best friends,” says Lindy, here with her brother 25 years ago “Be­ing able to help my brother— and many oth­ers like him— is the best feel­ing in the world!” says Lindy ( right), with her brother, Jor­dan ( left), who has Down syn­drome

As­sis­tant coach Jor­dan ( in white) fir­ing up the Un­less U bas­ket­ball team

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