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Four students graduate from UT’s Toledo Transition Program

By La Prensa Staff

 

The University of Toledo celebrated commencement exercises for four young people who completed Toledo Transition (T2), a postsecondary program for students with intellectual and developmental special needs.

 

These four students graduated on Friday, April 5, 2019 during ceremonies held on the UTMC campus at the Radisson Hotel, 3900 Glendale Ave. Daniel Napoli, John Soovagian II, Caroline Roberts, and Hallie Tincher each received diplomas. This is the largest graduating class for the program, which was established several years ago.

 

Patrick Kelley, T2 program coordinator, called it a paradigm shift from the days when the most these students could hope to achieve was a job at Lott Industries or some other service provider.

 

“There are states that are doing away with industries such as Lott and going toward as much typical inclusion as possible,” he said.

 

Poster-boards filled with photos and other memorabilia showed all the experiences the students had during two or three years in the program, which gives each an inclusive college experience that enhances social, academic, and vocational skills leading to a high quality of life. 

 

The T2 program is a 2-year or 4-year non-degree certificate program for young adults age 18 or older seeking an experience that prepares them for gainful employment. But as part of the self-determination process, students decide themselves when they’re ready to emerge and graduate.

John Soovagian II

 

Dan Napoli and Patrick Kelley

 

 

“When students feel they are ready to go, they go. We’ve had one young man who, after one year, decided he was ready to go get a job,” said Kelley. “This year, we had one two-year, two three-year, and one four-year student at graduation.”

 

The idea is to immerse each student in a personalized program based on their interests—as they audit courses that support their personal and career goals. The program focuses on four basic areas: academics, employment, independent living, and self-determination/student development. 

 

“Everything is so individualized. Everyone can contribute to society and everybody can live on their own, but the level of independence they have—some people may need a lot of coaching to live on their own,” he said. “The students, when they come into our program, they grow. But we also grow, because we learn what their needs are and how best to meet those needs. When they move on, we can then talk to the agency people about what might help them be the most independent, successful citizens they can be.”

 

Students also perform unpaid internships in areas that match their interests and skill levels to increase their job readiness. Program participants also take part in campus activities, such as eating at student union restaurants and attending UT sporting events.

 

To establish independent living skills, the program focuses on activities where students learn and practice skills required to make healthy choices, and socialize successfully. The curriculum also contains person-centered planning meetings as a way to focus on advocacy and community service mentoring and volunteering. Students meet with various stakeholders to review progress, develop goals and actions steps, as well as identify necessary supports. 

 

For example, Caroline Roberts took classes in theatre, computers, and animal-assisted therapy. She did vocational internships at the UT bookstore and UT Medical Center. She helped with the women’s volleyball team and attended basketball, football, and volleyball games. The major lesson she learned is the importance of making friends.

 

Daniel Napoli addressed the audience about his love of Marvel Comics and how he had joined a fraternity at UT, Pi Kappa Phi.

 

“I’m extremely proud of them,” said Kelley. “One of the students texted me a thank you for the graduation and in her text, let me know how proud she was of herself. I’m really proud because they’ve all grown and worked really hard to be ready to move out of college and into adulthood.”

 

Eight new students are enrolled in the next round of the T2 program. Eight more are currently enrolled. Kelley credits strong word of mouth for the growth of the program. There’s a goal of 25 to 30 participants at any given time, which means the program is nearing its capacity.

 

“More people are learning about our program, so there’s more interest from families in having their students attend,” he said. “Our program is growing. The field of postsecondary education for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities is in itself a growing field. It wasn’t an option ten to twelve years ago.”

 

One of the graduates—John Soovagian II—recently secured employment with the University of Toledo, while two others have job interviews scheduled. The fourth is returning to a seasonal job for the summer while she seeks a more permanent position.

 

Editor’s Note: Dr. Patricia A. Devlin directs the UT program with Patrick Kelley as one of its primary coordinators. Dr. Devlin holds the rank of Associate Professor in the Early Childhood, Higher Education and Special Education Department. Her area of interest focuses on promoting positive outcomes for youth and adults with moderate to significant disabilities.

 

 

 
Copyright © 1989 to 2019 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 04/09/19 12:49:12 -0700.

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