Same As U Executive Director Jennifer Sell has watched as her nonprofit program has grown.
Same As U, which serves young adults with development disabilities, opened with eight students in January 2020 and now has more than 50 students. Sell said Same As U has two classrooms at White River Christian Church in Noblesville and is reaching capacity.
“We know there are more young adults that would benefit from this programming, and they need a place to come and learn and have community,” Sell said. “We needed a place of our own. We needed a campus.”
Same As U has made a purchasing agreement to buy Faith Community Church’s building in Noblesville and plans to close June 1. Sell said the nonprofit has raised just more than 70 percent of the $1.5 million it needs and is seeking donations for the remainder.
“We’ll look to make the renovations we need for our programming and look to move in this fall,” Sell said. “The building is laid out perfectly for us. Their sanctuary is a gym the size of a volleyball court, so that’s going be an amazing multi-purpose gym. It will take us from two classrooms to six.”
Faith Community Church found it didn’t need the space much during the week but will continue to hold services Sundays for a period up to five years, Sell said.
Sell said she wants to add a retail component to the Same As U program on the 5.6-acre property where students could work.
“That gives us some breathing space to dream about that,” she said.
Same As U program members must be at least 18 years. The youngest right now for the year-round school is 20. The oldest is 33.
“We have four academic classes a day,” Sell said. “Our programming piece is accommodating to someone who is reading at the first-grade level and someone who is reading at the high school level. We know they want to continue learning.”
Sell said when those young adults leave high school, they often don’t have other students around them because most can’t go to college. There are feelings of isolation among those young adults, causing depression, Sell said.
“Their peers went off to college and they want to go off to college and they are left behind,” she said. “We’re hitting academics, vocational skills, life skills, recreation skills, physical education, but we’re also working on giving them community, reminding them they have purpose and their lives matter. Friendships are developing.”
Sell said the U stands for university because it serves as college for the nonprofit’s students.
“They want and desire the same things we do,” Sell said.
Sell came up with the idea because her own daughter, Jessica, who has development disabilities, was getting ready to graduate from Noblesville High School in 2020. Jessica started to talk about going to college like her older sister, and Sell wanted her daughter to have a place to continue her education.
Sara MacGregor is a co-founder, program director and lead teacher. She lives in Fishers with her husband, Scott. They have a daughter, Abby, who has Down syndrome and will attend after graduating high school this spring.
For more, visit SameAsU.org.