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ClemsonLIFE “All In” with Tigers

ClemsonLIFE “All In” with Tigers

Story by J.D. Elliott  // Clemson Athletic Communications

Photos by Brian Hennessy // Clemson Athletic Communications

CLEMSON, SC – Members of the ClemsonLIFE (Learning is for Everyone) Program enjoyed a field-trip of sorts Tuesday afternoon. Students in the program were invited to Clemson football practice by head coach Dabo Swinney.

The ClemsonLIFE program has enjoyed immense success over the years as it provides students with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to reside on a college campus and learn to be independent by teaching functional academics, independent living, employment and social/leisure skills. ClemsonLIFE student David Saville is working as a student equipment manager for the football team, and on Tuesday, his classmates had the chance to watch him at work.

“It’s become a real part of our program because we have had one of the ClemsonLIFE students work for us every day,” said Swinney. “Our players know ClemsonLIFE stands for ‘learning is for everyone.’ It’s a wonderful program that we have on this campus, and it provides such great opportunity and creates opportunities for so many young people.”

Lead classroom instructor Sarah Conklin is grateful for members of  the Clemson community like the football team that take the time to help the students. Conklin attributes the success of the program to a willing community.

“I think Clemson and the community make it so successful,” said Conklin. “We are getting these students to be a part of something outside of mom and dad, where they are having to do things on their own. They wake up by themselves, get dressed, brush their teeth and are at work on time. All of our employers, including Clemson football, are holding our students to high expectations.

“If David is late to practice, then he needs to get in trouble just like everyone else. Everyone in the community helps instill independence.”

The students were thrilled to hang out with some of their heroes for the afternoon. Reid, a second year student from Charleston, S.C., was excited to watch hometown star Stanton Seckinger, a tight end from Porter Gaud School. After giving his autograph, Seckinger posed for a photo with Reid.

First-year student Steven’s favorite part of gameday is watching the Tigers run down the Hill, and quarterback Deshaun Watson is his favorite player.

David is a student equipment manager, and Swinney recognizes that David plays an important role for the team.

“David Saville teaches us every day more than I could ever teach our players,” the head coach said. “He has meant the world to this program as we develop our players. He’s the epitome of what we try and teach. That is, take what God has given you and maximize it.

“One of the things I say all the time is, ‘the only disability in life is a bad attitude.’ We have so many young people who have all the potential in the world, but they are handicapped by a bad attitude. And David exemplifies the things we try and teach in our program.”

Senior cornerback Martin Jenkins is thankful for the perspective David has taught him.

“Just him being around presents another perspective of life, because obviously he wasn’t born like everyone else was,” said Jenkins. “But the joy he gets out of everything he does is inspiring.”

Many fans may recognize David from his now famous Youtube clip, where he led the team in a postgame victory celebration in the lockerrom, or his speech at the NDSC Convention earlier this year.

Upon graduation, the students of ClemsonLIFE will have gained knowledge they will enjoy their entire life. While ClemsonLIFE not only equips students with the skills to obtain a job, Conklin expects her students to succeed with a job they are happy with.

“We want our students to have meaningful jobs they enjoy,” said Conklin. “We have students working in grocery stores, in retail and we really push for them to live on their own, get an apartment with some friends and move out of the house with mom and dad.”

Through working with David and the ClemsonLIFE program, Swinney knows the program and its students will continue to succeed.

“I think that not only is learning for everyone, but life is for everyone. Everyone deserves an opportunity to be the best they can be and maximize the potential they have.”