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Wisconsin college offers opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities

A heartwarming video is going viral this week showing a Wisconsin teen with Down syndrome opening a college acceptance letter and celebrating with his family.

"I got accepted! Yes! Dad, you rock! I love you," an excited Noah VanVooren says in the video.

VanVooren was accepted to the Cutting-Edge program at Edgewood College. It is the first college in Wisconsin to offer inclusion for students with intellectual disabilities. Dr. Debra Hafner, director of the Cutting-Edge program, spoke to FoxNews.com about the importance of higher education options for students with intellectual disabilities. 

"The Cutting-Edge program started in 2007," Hafner said. "It was just a wonderful experience in terms of how welcoming the faculty and administration has been of the Cutting-Edge students."

The program has had a total of 33 students so far. Hafner said it takes between two and three years to complete the program.

"We've had some people stay longer, which is OK because it just means they need a little more time," Hafner said. "Part of our program is a non-degree program for students to come onto campus and have that college experience."

One of the program's success stories is Nikki Flynn, who is preparing to graduate from the program after doing an internship at a local elementary school.

"Nikki has been really part of our pioneering journey because we’ve really had to have students like Nikki, who help kind of be able to shape the program," Hafner said.

"I've been having a great time," Flynn said. "The peer mentors are awesome, each and every one of them."

Hafner said there is a nationwide effort to develop more programs like Cutting-Edge. Think College offers a database of colleges that offer programs for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

"When we started our program in 2007, there were only 39 colleges that were doing this in the country. The movement has changed that -- there's now over 200 programs in the U.S.," Hafner said. "It's just taken on a whole new level of self-determination for students like Nikki to be able to say, 'This is what I want to do,' and to develop that independence so that she can be an adult in the community and be very self-sufficient."