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Three special children, years apart in age, but with hearts that bleed orange and blue, brought the Board of Directors of

The EAGLES Foundation together.


When our daughter Lauren was born, we were surprised by her Down Syndrome diagnosis.  The future that we had imagined for our beautiful daughter evaporated during a ten-minute conversation with the neonatal doctor.  It was terribly unfamiliar territory and we began to research how to best support her development and education.  


Birmingham has an incredible network of early intervention programs and our public-school system was one of the best in the state for providing education for students with intellectual disabilities.  As we watched Lauren progress through these programs, we began to research and advocate for what comes next.  


When Lauren was 10 years old, my husband Frank and I took her to visit the Clemson Life Program in 2014 to explore a future college option.  As we were traveling back to Birmingham, I called my father, Lloyd Nix, a true Auburn man, and said, “Dad, we need to have a program of this type at Auburn!”


I am so thankful and proud to have been a part of the early conversations with Auburn and to see this amazing program come to fruition.  The EAGLES program will change the lives of countless students and their families. These students are learning life and job skills that will open the doors to opportunities I would have never imagined when Lauren was born.   Denise Slupe

Former Auburn University Board of Trustee Member, Sarah Newton, pondered and dreamed about what her grandson Jack, who was also born with Down syndrome, would do one day after high school.


When our precious grandson was born, we fell in love with him at first sight. Yet, our hearts were filled with concerns, not knowing what his future would hold. It didn't take long to understand he had dreams and aspirations just like other children.  


My prayer for him has always been that he could live life to the fullest.  One of the many thoughts that ran through my mind was that Jack wouldn’t have an Auburn college experience. 

Because of my background as a teacher and principal in K-12 education, I knew Jack would have opportunities in that arena.  I began thinking about his future and how he might experience an Auburn education. As a member of the Auburn governing board, I was reviewing our mission statement which states, “We are dedicated to improving the lives of the people of Alabama, the nation, and the world.”


I began to research how other colleges had developed programs with the goal of improving the Iife of the intellectually disabled population, and found many SEC schools had postsecondary experiences already in place for these special students.


I shared my vision with Dr. Gogue who was very supportive and helped me pave the way.  I also sought the help of Dean Whitford in the College of Education and together we began developing a plan.  

Dr. Karen Rabren and Dr. Cari Dunn worked hundreds of extra hours to make this dream a reality.  This program has been embraced by the entire Auburn family, every step of the way. 


The EAGLES Program gives students with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to experience collegiate life that is appropriate for them and teaches them life skills to be independent and contributing members of society. 


One line of the Auburn Creed exemplifies what this program stands for: “I believe in the human touch, which cultivates sympathy with my fellow men and mutual helpfulness and brings happiness for all.”


It is my dream that this program will help Auburn fulfill its mission which is “education for all.”


Katie Basden, third generation Auburn student and former Auburn Cheerleader, prayed for an opportunity for her son Bradley after high school. Bradley was born with a rare genetic defect causing him cognitive and physical challenges. “There are other wonderful programs available for students with intellectual disabilities all around the country, but the only place Bradley ever wanted to go and thought he would go, was Auburn.” Bradley’s dream came true when he was accepted into the first cohort of The EAGLES Program at Auburn University in 2018. 


Thanks to the commitment of Sarah and Denise and countless members of the Auburn University administration along with the faculty of the College of Education, there is an educational opportunity for students with Intellectual Disabilities to become members of the Auburn Family. 


In order to provide a first-class program of this type and the supports necessary for the students, there is a significant program fee required along with other typical college expenses. Since college for students with intellectual disabilities has not always been an option, most families have not planned and saved for this opportunity. There are also very limited resources in place to help families afford this type of program. When Denise, Sarah and Katie realized the financial burden that would be placed on families in The EAGLES Program, they were moved to start the EAGLES Foundation to raise scholarships and program support.

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