MINOT, N.D. (KXNET) — October is National Down Syndrome Awareness month and a university is supplying those with this disability a chance to live independently.

According to globaldownsyndrome.org, there are over 400,000 people in the United States living with Down Syndrome.

Although this is a developmental disability, many are on a mission to prove they have the ability to do anything in life.

“I work at Menards and I’m also getting a job for ASTEP, I’ll be working in an office as a personal assistant, so I’ll be running errands for the people donating for the orphanage, like toys and stuff,” said ASTEP student, Marisa Giese.

Marisa is a 20-year-old Minot State student that is in the ASTEP program, studying technology information.

ASTEP is a program for those with developmental disabilities, giving them the opportunity to attend college and learn skills that they will need in order to live an independent life.

“Down Syndrome does not imply an intellectual disability, people with Down Syndrome could go on to get degrees and work in the workforce and be married and live wonderful lives,” said North Dakota Center for Persons with Disabilities Executive Director, Lori Garnes.

Students in the ASTEP program will graduate with a certificate from Minot State, some students also have the opportunity to receive an associate’s degree.

The goal of ASTEP is to show the community that those with developmental disabilities are not a burden to society.

Marisa says it is difficult living with Down Syndrome but she is determined to work hard in the classroom and at work.

“It can be a positive way, it can be a negative way. I try to focus more on the positives of my disability, it’s hard to deal with but I deal with it since I’m older now and I accept it,” added Giese.

Marisa will be graduating from the Minot State ASTEP program in three years with a certificate in technology information.

Colleges around the country are now offering programs like ASTEP for students with developmental disabilities.

For more information on the ASTEP Program, visit their website.