Personal Story

Feature Issue on Inclusive Higher Education for People with Intellectual, Developmental, and Other Disabilities

Keeping it in the Family


Kim McKay, Zach’s mother, is a University of Maryland graduate. She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland.

Zach McKay is a student in the University of Maryland’s TerpsEXCEED program. He lives in Columbia, Maryland.

The University of Maryland College Park has always had a special place in our family's heart. It's where it all began for us. Back in 1986, I met my future husband, Wendell. In fact, he was one of the first people I met on campus. He was our floor's resident assistant (RA), a job he took after playing football for the Terrapins for two years. After graduation, my husband continued on to the University of Maryland's medical school. Every fall, you can find us tailgating on campus before football games, cheering on the basketball teams in winter and the lacrosse teams in the spring!  We've dragged our two kids along for the ride and dreamed of the day they would make their own Terrapin memories.  

We were blessed that our daughter, a lacrosse player, was recruited to attend University of Maryland. Alex made us super proud as she represented the Terrapins on the field - winning national championships, and in the classroom - earning three degrees (including a masters) in five years.  Our family spent every spring weekend on campus, cheering on our daughter and her team. 

Our Terrapin unit was almost complete with three out of four being official Terrapins. Our son, Zach, who has autism and other intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), really wanted to go to college. Specifically, he really wanted to go University of Maryland, just like the rest of the family. He attended a community college program for students with IDD, but he really wanted a complete, inclusive, on-campus big college experience. Just like the rest of us. 

Along came TerpsEXCEED - the answer to our son's desire for the typical college experience.  We immediately helped him apply and he was accepted.  To say he was excited is an understatement!  In the first semester alone, he auditioned for and was accepted into the UMD Men's Chorus, participated in a musical cabaret and joined a bunch of clubs!  He refuses to sit in our fancy seats and joins his friends in the student section of games, jumping up and down under the flag drop (a really great tradition at Maryland).  He is routinely on the "Jumbotron Dance Cam," expressing the sheer joy of being an official University of Maryland Terrapin!  

We can't wait to see what the next few semesters hold. Like every college student, he's pursuing passions and exploring career options. We see a very bright future as a result of the TerpsEXCEED program. And now our Terrapin family circle is complete. 

By Kim McKay

A family stands with arms around one another. The father, wearing sunglasses and a bright red jacket with a multi-colored bow tie, rests his hand on a framed jersey. The mother wears black clothes with a yellow and black scarf and sunglasses. The daughter is wearing a white sports uniform and holding a bouquet of flowers. The son, wearing a red tshirt and khaki shorts, smiles at the camera.

The McKay family, from left: Zach, Kim, Alex, and Wendell.

As a student in the TerpsEXCEED program at University of Maryland, I am making a lot of friends. I have peer mentors to help me understand the assignments in my classes. I take classes with them. I take classes like History of Popular Music, Oral Communications, Mass Communications, and Introduction to Theatre. I like to go to football games with my new friends and rock climbing. Sometimes, I work out at the gym called Eppley. I auditioned for the 32 Bars musical club, and I performed in a show. I just auditioned for a musical and I will be in the ensemble. I also auditioned for the UMD Men’s Chorus, and I am part of the men’s chorus now. I have friends there. We sing in concerts together at the beautiful performance center on campus.

My family and my sister went to University of Maryland. Now I am excited to come to TerpsEXCEED. I walk around campus, and I get to my classes. And I feel happy. Now I’m the college student. I’m not nervous about being a college student, because it is wonderful.

I think other kids should come to University of Maryland because being a college student is about careers. It will help TerpsEXCEED students to get a job. I started my first job at the Eppley Rec Center recently, and one day I would like to work in sports or theater.

I want TerpsEXCEEED to always be here at UMD. Students like me can be at UMD and be a real Terp, too. 

By Zach McKay