To Our Founder’s: THANK YOU

Options for College Success was founded in 2009 by two mothers with a mission of supporting post- secondary students with learning challenges to be successful in college.  After working in the education field, both realized there were many students with learning challenges that were not receiving the support needed within the school system and decided they needed to intervene and help those students.  Over the years the mission developed into the more comprehensive program it is today, including finance skill building, independent living skills, social skills, vocational support, and providing social event opportunities.  These women had a vision and worked tirelessly to bring it to fruition.

As both of our founder’s have now retired, we wanted to highlight these incredible individuals that created this strong community, the Options for College Success family.

Christine Anderson worked in the education field for over 40 years.   She began in an inner-city school in Savannah, Georgia. She then transferred to the Savannah Association for Children with Specific Learning Disabilities. After raising her family in the Chicago area, Christine returned to the workforce, first as a director for an alternative high school and then as a director for a national program for young adults with learning challenges. The drive to advocate and support this population has been a passion of Christine’s.  Christine stepped down from her role as Executive Director in January of 2018.  She continues her dedication to the community, co-creating and launching an app, Glimmer (, with her son.

Shoshana Axler, born and raised in Chicago, was a classroom teacher as well as a mentor for many years in the Chicago area.  She earned a master’s degree from Rhode Island College in education.  Her commitment to the success of young adults creates an ongoing connection with all students and families she has served.  Shoshana spent several years fundraising for cancer research and then returned to the field of education.  Shoshana is the mother of 3 grown children and many grandchildren.  Shoshana retired this last week and will be moving to be with her family in Israel. Shoshana’s generosity, dedication to community, and enthusiasm is profound, and it runs deep within the foundation of our organization.

We are forever grateful to our founders! We will always continue the mission set forth by these brilliant women! The Options for College Success family wishes Christine and Shoshana joy and happiness as they embark on their new journey!

On Giving Tuesday, Donate to Organizations that Fill the Gaps

Options for College Success provides services and support to fill the gap for individuals with learning challenges and disabilities aging out of the school system and launching into their next journey. These individuals stop receiving services through the state between 18 and 22 years of age.  Where do they go next?

These individuals may not be ready for post-secondary schooling nor have the skills to be employed. Employment rates for those with disabilities are very low, and educational attainment is essential to the success of young adults with disabilities because the jobs of the future require technical training and education. Based on the 2017 Disability Statistics Annual Report from the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Disability Statistics and Demographics, in the U.S. 35.9% of individuals aged 18-64 with disabilities were employed versus 76.6% of those without a disability.

At our organization, we customize an individual’s plan based on where they currently are at in development and what goals they look to achieve. We fill the gaps with hands on, one on one support to provide them with the opportunity to live a healthy, productive and independent life.

Please donate to Options for College Success on this day and as we move into the holiday season.  We want to improve and expand our programming to fit the increasing needs of the population we work with.  Your gift, no matter the size, will directly impact the success of our students.

Please visit and click on our donate button at the bottom of the page or send a check  payable to Options for College Success.

Options for College Success

1515 maple Ave. Suite 190

Evanston, IL 60201

Options for College Success Presents…

By Samantha Kolkey, LCSW


Happy Friday y’all!

Options for College Success is proud to inform everyone that we are hosting a free event on planning for now and the future!

We are bringing together Andre Sam from The Special Needs Education and Advocacy Project and Kathryn Jackson from Autism Spectrum Therapies for an evening workshop discussing the logistical and emotional support needs in life transitions for individuals with disabilities. In addition, there will be a special segment presented by staff from Northwestern University’s Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Lab regarding their current research studies on autism and Fragile X.

This event is on Wednesday, February 28th 2018 from 6:00pm-8:00pm at the Segal Visitor’s Center at Northwestern University.

We will have refreshments!

Please let me know if you plan to attend.  Email:

I hope to see you there!

special needs education and advocacy project image

There’s an App for that!

By Samantha Kolkey

As we all may know, there are literally applications for our phones, tablets and computers that will help with almost anything.

All of our students, as most people can relate to, are glued to their phones.  If I can help them utilize their phones to support the development of executive functioning skills, to establish a routine or habit, to limit distractions, or provide other ways to study for their classes, then I am open to this technology.

I was recently working with a student who has executive functioning deficits and needed support in establishing a more independent morning routine, including a more effective alarm.  A colleague suggested that I look at the app “Alarmy.”  Alarmy allows the person to set their alarm with a choice of settings: Take a Picture, Solve Math Problems, and Shake Shake (where you must shake the phone a specific number of times for the alarm to turn off).  This app helps decrease one’s tendency to snooze their alarm multiple times, and to not stay in bed for a long period of time.

Other apps to explore:

Streaks:  This app helps in establishing habits.  You can choose up to 12 tasks that you want to turn into daily habits. When it is checked off for the day, it creates a streak.  The visual of the streak creates a sense of accomplishment, aiming to motivate the individual to continue with the task.  If it is not checked off, the streak resets to zero.

Forest: Stay Focused, Be Present: For those who have trouble stepping away from the internet to complete a task, study session, etc.  This app allows the user to create their own forest.  You begin by planting a seed.  Within the next 30 minutes, the seed will gradually grow into a tree. If you end up going to browse websites, the tree will wither away.  You can even put specific websites that distract you most on a “Blacklist.” This app will help to cultivate effective time management, and can also be used to decrease dependency on the internet.

Quizlet:  Supports studying on the go.  You can get gentle reminders to study, see how you’re improving, and work in short study sessions.  This allows you to create a study plan and can guide you through what and when to practice.

AudioNote:  This app combines the function of a notepad and a voice recorder to save time and improve the quality of one’s notes. AudioNote will automatically index lectures, meetings, interviews, or study sessions.

IntervalMinder:  This app can be used to support one’s therapy and self-monitoring goals. It is very effective for monitoring breaks.


Happy App-ing!




“I feel so anxious right now!” Coping with Finals

By Samantha Kolkey

Around this time of year, our students on academic paths are preparing for and taking their final exams.  They have worked so hard, and must overcome this last obstacle for their semester/quarter/trimester.

Many of our students feel anxious over these finals, no matter if it is a project, portfolio, test–I know most of us can relate to this. I often hear “I’m so anxious right now,”  “I can’t focus enough to study,” or I see our students walking around during study halls, unable to sit for long periods of time to study or finish papers and projects.  Below are a few suggestions that we provide to our students, and some are from students themselves:

  • Implement self-care into your daily routine: Take a walk in the morning or between studying, listen to music, or talk to a friend.  Make sure to get good sleep (especially several days before the exam) and eat as healthy as possible.
  • When preparing for a test, give yourself time.  Time to study, time to get to the testing center or classroom, time to take care of yourself.
  • If you are unable to concentrate while studying, grab an ice pack or drink a cold glass of water.  The cold may help wake you up and snap you out of distraction.
  • Reframe negative thoughts and beliefs.  Turn “I am never going to pass this test,”  “I can’t do this,” “I don’t know anything” into more realistic and positive thoughts. “I will walk into the test confidently,” “I am going to do my best,” and “I do know many things, and I am going to do well on this test.” *Bonus: this can be done during the test!
  • When you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed, excessively sweating, breathing fast, heart racing:  take slow and deep breaths.  Inhale through the nose slowly until you fill up your lungs, then slowly exhale through your mouth, completely deflating your lungs.  Do this at least 5 times. Closing your eyes for a few moments and imagining a favorite or relaxing place can be added to further decrease any uncomfortable feelings. *Bonus: this can be done during the test!
  • After the test or submission of project/paper, do something you greatly enjoy.  You finished!


#AutismSpeaks Transition Toolkit

By Marcella Mackowiak

Autism Speaks logo is a very resourceful organization. Typically, I would not use another organization’s logo in my blog, but I think that it is warranted to give credit where credit is due. See, we’re all in this fight together, the fight of building awareness for those who live with ASD and the loved ones who are affected by it. We all promote the love, success, and equality for those living with ASD, so I am happy to post a blog giving #AustimSpeaks credit for being very resourceful.

This particular article contains a free, downloadable toolkit that was assembled by #AutismSpeaks that is meant to “assist families on the journey from adolescence to adulthood.” This toolkit reminds me of the steps that we take to prepare our students for  life after high school. It is organizations like #AutismSpeaks and #OptionsForCollegeSuccess who are making the difference for those out there living with ASD, and we are certainly proud to do it!

Checkout the link for the toolkit below…

How to Help Students with Learning Challenges Build Healthy Self-Esteem

By the Options for College Success staff


We are proud to support our Director of Programs in the publishing of her first guest blog entry for Beyond Book Smart.  Please click on the link below: