The first participants of an educational program that helps students with intellectual and developmental disabilities prepare for competitive employment graduated from the program during a special ceremony Aug. 7 at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
UA Little Rock partnered with Easterseals Arkansas to create the Academics, Community, Career Development and Employment Program (ACCE). Students started taking classes at UA Little Rock in January to learn independent living skills and employment skills, and to explore careers throughinternships.
The seven graduates include Charlee Brosh of Little Rock, Reshad Brown of Maumelle, David Dallas of Sherwood, Essense Hayes of Maumelle, Todd Hewitt of Little Rock, LaQuan Jones of Little Rock, and Shawn Morehart of Mabelvale.
Three of the graduates have already found permanent employment. Brosh will work at the UA Little Rock/University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Speech and Hearing Clinic, while Dallas is working at McDonalds in Sherwood.
Jones, who found a job at the UA Little Rock Fitness Center, said he gained the most experience working in the UA Little Rock School of Education.
“People would come into the office to learn how they could go to school,” Jones said. “It was the greatest learning experience. We did our best to research the type of job we wanted. We had mentors help us with interviewing skills. It was a great privilege to learn and study new things.”
While addressing the graduates, UA Little Rock Chancellor Andrew Rogerson emphasized the importance of higher education, employment, and living independently for success.
“Higher education must be available and accessible for all,” Rogerson said. “Higher education enriches one’s life and allows each one of you to reach your full potential. This is a proud moment for the Class of 2017.”
Keynote Speaker Rick Fleetwood, CEO of Snell Prosthetics and Orthotics and Easterseals Arkansas board member who also serves on the national Easterseals board of directors, praised the graduates for being the first people to complete a program that has the potential to help many others.
“It’s always important to be the first,” Fleetwood said. “You are setting a new trail and raising the bar. Education is an equalizer. I am so glad we have this program that will help make things easier for you and those who follow your path.”
All of the graduates were awarded a free membership to the UA Little Rock Alumni Association. The second cohort of Academics, Community, Career Development and Employment Program participants will begin taking classes at UA Little Rock this fall with 12 students.