Donors fund new student-focused technology lab

October 16, 2020

EAGLES foundation with eagles program director Betty Patten and SERC department head Jeff Reese holding check Since the founding of the EAGLES Program, many alumni, parents and community members have displayed an outpouring of support for its students, providing more than $500,000 in philanthropic support. But three individuals, intimately understanding the expenses of the program, wanted to do more to help. Thus, the Eagles Foundation was born, a separate nonprofit that helps raise money and awareness for the EAGLES Program.

The Eagles Foundation, launched in 2019 by Auburn alumnae Denise Slupe, Katie Basden, and AU Trustee Sarah Newton, recently joined the EAGLES students on the Auburn campus for a check presentation to fund a new learning resources lab. The lab will provide computer, printer, and technology enhancements in the Dawson Building, home to the EAGLES Program.

EAGLES is a comprehensive transition program (CTP) for students with intellectual disabilities. The program provides a postsecondary education opportunity for students with intellectual disabilities to engage in a two- or four-year campus experience.

Over the past several months, the foundation has been raising money for the program with a kickoff party and a pair of highly-successful golf tournaments. The money raised has been used toward scholarships for EAGLES students. This past August, six students received scholarships, and the foundation is working to continue to provide scholarships every semester from this point forward.

“Our primary goal is to raise scholarships and support for the students in the EAGLES Program,” said Basden, one of the foundation’s founders. “We have received generous support, and recently asked EAGLES Program director Dr. Betty Patten what were the greatest needs of the program that we could help provide. She said nothing would be as helpful as a learning resource and technology lab.”

The lab will be used for job training, academic support, and creative lessons unique to the EAGLES Program.

“We are thrilled to be able to provide a technology lab that will benefit not only current students in the program, but future students as well.”

Denise Slupe, another of the group’s founders, said the program has excelled beyond her hopes and expectations.

“The program is in the middle of its third year, and it has grown in every way,” she said. “Much of this is a result of the hard work of the excellent staff, led by Dr. Patten, as well as the dedication and focus of the EAGLES students themselves. The program has been welcomed by our student body and the Auburn community in so many ways. The Panhellenic community has shown how our students are welcomed through the recent sorority recruitment period, and just overall the EAGLES have become an integral part of our student body. The presence of the EAGLES students on Auburn’s campus has been mutually beneficial. While the EAGLES students are gaining life experiences, the rest of the Auburn Family is also learning from them.”

EAGLES program students with EAGLES Foundation members at check presentation for technology lab

Signs of the positive growth of the program abound. When the program launched, there were maybe eight WINGS (Warmhearted Individuals Nurturing Great Success), who are typical students who provide support to EAGLES. There are now about ten times that many. In a recent appeal to Auburn-area businesses to learn more about the opportunity to hire students with disabilities, several local businesses signed up. Both Basden and Slupe say this kind of success and growth is encouraging.

“I am excited for the future of the program,” Basden said. “I see the EAGLES Program becoming a model for other colleges and universities, and really being the premier program of its sort in the country. The students are enjoying an authentic Auburn experience, learning valuable employment skills, and becoming engaged in tasks of daily living across the community. This program will enable countless young people to live independently and thrive in our communities.  It is our honor to use our foundation to provide support to these exceptional students.”

Support from the Eagles Foundation—combined with support from other foundations, corporations, and alumni and friends—is truly making a difference in the lives of our students. To learn more about the EAGLES Program and how to partner with us, please contact Jennifer Howard at

Make a gift to the EAGLES Program.