Cape High grad Zach Simpler first to complete advanced UD program

Former student returns as athletic department employee and ambassador for CLSC
January 3, 2024

Former Cape High student-athlete Zach Simpler has returned to his alma mater as an employee after being the first pupil to complete a four-year advanced program at the University of Delaware.

The Career and Life Studies Certificate program for students with intellectual disabilities launched in 2011 through UD’s College of Education and Human Development, said CLSC Program Manager Jay Sellers. 

What’s great about the program, Sellers said, is that students are building independent living and social skills while exploring careers, completing internships and taking academic courses.

“College is a transition space,” Sellers said. “Every student that is here is transitioning into adulthood. Every student at UD is doing that, so it’s great to have an inclusive program option for students with intellectual disabilities to go through that transition themselves.”

The program offers a two- or four-year option, Sellers said. Coaches meet with students four hours a week in a pair of two-hour sessions where students make academic and independent-living goals, and action plans.

“Students have a range of abilities,” Sellers said. “We meet them where they are and they grow from there.”

Two-year students have the option to live on campus, earn three undergraduate credits and take CLSC learning modules. They complete four-hour internships the first year and 10-12-hour internships in the second year while participating in campus activities.

Academic courses are chosen based on student interest, Sellers said. At the end of year two, students decide to enter the job force or continue their education. Simpler chose more school, Sellers said, as he felt he was just unlocking his potential. 

Four-year students can live in on- or off-campus housing, and have the same access to university activities. They take six undergraduate credits focused on career and leadership goals, plan events, work with local organizations on community service projects and complete independent study and paid internships. 

Simpler said he was eager to go to college and live on campus, but was at first unsure what to study. He experimented with video engineering and restaurant management before deciding on sports management.

As a Cape High student, Zach was on the swim, cross country, and track and field teams, managed the basketball team and often performed as the Viking mascot.

“Since I have a huge passion for sports, I love talking about sports, I decided to follow my dream of working in the sports management field,” Simpler said. “I loved it. I thought it was the best thing I ever did.”

At UD, Simpler worked and traveled with the football team, and was entrusted with more responsibilities each semester, Sellers said. Simpler received a division championship ring as part of the team.

“He was an integral part of the staff when he was there,” said Sellers. “He did earn that ring, just like the rest of the staff did.”

Simpler took advantage of every opportunity afforded him as a college student.

“I thought it was one of the best experiences I could ever have had,” he said. “As a person, it allowed me to have the chance to actually get more out of myself. I was able to make lifelong friendships. It allowed me to actually become my own person and to grow into what I wanted to be.”

As the Neighborhood Empowerment Team captain on his dorm floor, Simpler organized activities for students in his residence hall, including board game, pizza and costume party movie nights.

In the summer, Simpler works at The Starboard, where he manages the restaurant volleyball team, the Starboard Bull Sharks, and is known as the silverware king.

“I earned that moniker because ... I've had more than 200 customers I don’t even know personally give me compliments on how well the silverware is,” he said.

At Cape, Simpler works for the athletic department.

“I love it,” he said. “There’s nothing I can say except I love where I’m at, and I felt like I achieved something I thought I’d never do by actually graduating from a college program and getting a job at my alma mater.” 

In the fall, he was assigned to the football team, where one of his responsibilities included putting the kicking net up for kickers.

“I have it on good authority that we’re getting a brand-new kicking net this upcoming season,” he said.

This winter, he’s operating the shot clock for boys’ basketball practices, washing player uniforms and filming all games. He said he’s leaning toward working with the baseball team this spring.

“I’ve been playing ball ever since I was a little guy going back to the Rehoboth Beach Little League, which is now the Rehoboth Beach Sports Complex,” he said.

Simpler is also an ambassador for CLSC. In December, he spoke about his experiences to a group of interested Cape students and staff, and he will be giving more presentations throughout Delaware.

“Going to college you can experience many things, and one of those things is finding out who you truly are as a person,” he said. “When you get done college or whatever you plan on doing for your future education, you will most certainly feel like a champion because you, and only you, will know what it feels like to accomplish something.”

CLSC offers rolling admissions, and each cohort begins in the fall. Financial assistance is available for eligible students through the Delaware Division of Developmental Disabilities Services and the Delaware Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.

A virtual open house about the CLSC program is planned for Thursday, Jan. 25, Sellers said. For more information, call 302-831-2940 or go to


Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter