The future is looking up for Boston high school senior Maximo Pimental.
For the past few years, Max has been making the trek to Roxbury Community College to supplement his high school courses with college courses, as part of a program called Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment. His favorite class: drawing.
"My drawings weren't that good and when I started the class my drawings started to get better and I understood more about shapes and forms," he said.
Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment, or I.C.E., is a state-funded grant program in Massachusetts that's been around since 2007.
It offers public high school students with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to participate in college courses at 10 institutions of higher learning across the state.
Research shows that students benefit academically and transition to young adulthood more readily when they have the opportunity to engage in college-related activities rather than just staying at a high school level.
Democratic state Rep. Tom Sannicandro of Framingham spearheaded this program.
"What happened before this was once they hit 12th grade, their peers went on to higher education and they were stuck because there was no avenue for them to access higher education, so essentially they ended up doing another 4 years in high school," he said.
In Max's case, not only has he gotten college classroom experience, but also internship and work experience on campus as well.
"I don't think people realize that the unemployment rate for people with intellectual disabilities is incredibly high," I.C.E. coordinator Glenn Gabbard said.
Gabbard says this program acknowledges students with intellectual disabilities are an important part of workforce development.
"They are an active part of the citizenry. They can actually make a difference," he said.
"A lot of these students go in with low self-esteem, and when they see they can be successful on a college campus, it opens their eyes and they can do anything," Sannicandro said.
And Max Pimental is proof that students with intellectual disabilities can do anything.
"Going to college is not a dream for me anymore. It is a goal that I can reach," he said.