VAST LIFE is a program through the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education designed to provide students ages 14-21 the opportunity to have community-based experiences, transitional assessments and lessons, and cultural events in the city of Philadelphia customized for them by graduate students who are seeking a Master of Science in Education and Special Education Certification in the Commonwealth. The program provides tailor-made lessons and experiences designed to enhance and develop your child's transition skills. All fees and food for the sessions are provided at no cost to families.  

Read more about us in the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Today spotlight:
VAST LIFE Program Expands Horizons of Students and Future Teachers 

View the video story on VAST LIFE produced by University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Today:
Penn grad students experience hands-on learning in special education

Criteria for Gaining Admission into VAST LIFE

  • Must be 14-22 years of age at the time of enrollment
  • Must be a PASA candidate in the state of Pennsylvania
  • Must be able to attend all five sessions, including “snow date”

Program Highlights

  • VAST LIFE participants will enjoy Penn's historic campus and the city of Philadelphia while working on community & transition skills.
  • Participants will be selected to engage in various cultural and community experiences designed to educate and assess students with developmental and intellectual disabilities in the areas of social, life, vocational and transitional skills.
  • Participants will receive one to one guidance and small group learning as they are provided with enriching opportunities on Penn's campus and the city as a whole.
  • Participants will develop a greater understanding of:
    • transportation
    • awareness of skills required in leisure settings such as museums, theaters & social events
    • functional math skills
    • various types of jobs in our city and on a college campus
    • pedestrian safety

How to Apply

We are accepting applications for the 2024 season. Selected applicants must be able to attend all Saturday sessions plus the "Meet and Greet" on December 6, 2023, where you and your child will meet the graduate students who will work with your child in the Spring. All sessions are from 10:00 a.m. (drop off) to 4:00 p.m. (pick up) on Penn's campus.

  • Wednesday, December 6, 2023: Meet & Greet – On campus – 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. (Parents/guardians attend entire session with their child.)
  • Saturday, January 20, 2024: Session #1 – On campus – 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. 
  • Saturday, February 10, 2024: Session #2 – On campus – 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. 
  • Saturday, March 16, 2024: Session #3 – On campus – 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. 
  • Saturday, April 13, 2024: Makeup snow date, if needed 
  • **Saturday, April 27, 2024: Session #4 – On campus – 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. 
  • Saturday, May 11, 2024: Session #5 – On campus – 10:00 4:00 p.m. (Parents/guardians attend beginning at 2:00 p.m. for our final family presentation.)

Be sure to complete all three parts of the application.

  1. Questionnaire for Parents of Children Applying to V.A.S.T. L.I.F.E 
  2. VAST LIFE @ PENN Participant Release of Liability Assumption of Risk Agreement
  3. Waiver

Please send all questions and completed applications to Dr. Heather Hopkins. Applications will be considered for admittance on a first come first serve basis, as long as qualifications are met. Please email