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IDEAL program partners with Earth Rides for training, transportation

Kim Chaudoin  | 

Earth Rides car parked in front of Allen Arena

Lipscomb University’s educational program for students with developmental and intellectual disabilities is partnering with a new Nashville start-up that is quickly becoming the next big name in rideshares.

 The Lipscomb University College of Education’s IDEAL (Igniting the Dream of Education and Access at Lipscomb) program has announced a new partnership with Earth Rides, a rideshare organization that was officially launched on Oct. 1, 2020 and has a focus on eco-friendly rides and serving the community. The organizations are partnering in two primary ways. IDEAL program administrators are providing disability awareness workshops for Earth Rides ambassadors and IDEAL is using Earth Rides as its exclusive rideshare partner for transporting students to and from their internships in Nashville. 

“IDEAL is excited to partner with Earth Rides to provide our students with safe and on time transportation to their off campus internship sites. We are also pleased that we are able to share our experiences and expertise with Earth Rides drivers to create a greater awareness of the disability community and how to serve it more effectively,” said Andrea Pewitt, IDEAL program director. “One piece of teaching independent living skills to the IDEAL students is teaching how to access public transportation safely and effectively. This partnership allows us to continue teaching safe travel training  to our students while also supporting them in independent traveling around the greater Nashville area. With Earth Rides employing their own drivers and providing their own vehicles, that adds an additional layer of safety for our students and for others who may need more assistance with transportation.”

Earth Rides founder and Lipscomb alumna Raven Hernandez seeks to provide a service that meets the unique needs of others while serving the community.

“Transportation should be accessible and affordable for all,” said Hernandez. “Earth Rides is excited to continue this mission by partnering with Lipscomb University’s IDEAL Program to better learn how to serve persons with varying abilities.”

IDEAL students with Earth Rides car

IDEAL is a two-year certificate program, accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, designed to encourage and support students with intellectual and developmental disabilities to experience college as their peers do. Launched in January 2014, the IDEAL program includes academic and skill-building classes, exercise sessions, daily internships, leisure time and a daily study period. The initial cohort included three students. Since its inception,  58 students have enrolled in the program. 

Students in Lipscomb’s IDEAL program enroll in two traditional university classes per semester based on their interests and career goals, such as art, theater, music, science, computers, nutrition, health, education, early childhood studies or Bible. The IDEAL program staff members collaborate with university faculty to identify any necessary accommodations to the course material. IDEAL students are paired with traditional Lipscomb students, who serve as peer mentors.

As part of the program, students hold internships both on and off campus, two in the first year on campus and two in the second year off campus, that may include a variety of tasks including clerical work or any job allowing the students to practice vocational skills matching their career goals. Students are placed in off-campus internships in their second year of the program, including Metro Nashville Public Schools, Warner Parks,  State of Tennessee Government offices, and Nashville Food Project. For more information, visit