A learning community for students with developmental disabilities at Montgomery College celebrated its graduation ceremony last month, when ten men and women took a step closer to independence. Their families, friends, and professors were there to cheer them on as they segued into the next phase of their lives.
The Graduate Transition Program is a two-year, tuition-based, credit-free certificate program and a learning community for students with developmental disabilities. Its objective is to enable students, while in a supportive college environment, to transition to greater independent living through developmentally appropriate educational, employment opportunities, and life-skill and social connections.
“Our mission is to empower individuals to live, learn, work, and participate in the social fabric of our community,” said Karla Nabors, director of Developmental Education/Workforce Access. “We believe that, given the opportunity and proper support, all individuals can achieve academic success, successful careers, and personal growth.”
Classes include communications, art, math, computers, reading and writing, as well as history/current events. The visit to the planetarium, however, was unanimously their favorite experience while at Montgomery College, as they all mentioned in their speeches.
They have come a long way since they first walked the Montgomery College hallways and they have all grown together. “When I first came, I was nervous because I didn’t know my friends or the campus. I became competent and I liked it very much,” Elizabeth Sturgeon said.
MC has taught me to be a better person
Feeling independent and making friends were at the top of the list of reasons why they liked being Montgomery College students.
“It has helped expand my independence. I felt like myself. MC has taught me to be a better person. I plan to move out of my house and find a job. I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I am sure it will be great,” said Reed Johnson, who also thanked the bus drivers for getting him and his friends safely to campus every day.
State delegate Jheanelle K. Wilkins delivered the keynote speech and had the opportunity to meet the graduates a few weeks before graduation. “The GTP program is one of the most amazing, groundbreaking programs that Montgomery College offers. It is truly a beacon in our state, and these students have learned so much,” she said. “I have had a chance to meet them and participate in their class, we talked about current events, and it was an amazing opportunity to engage with the students. I am proud of how much Montgomery County has prepared them for the world.”
Some of them, like Julia Ramos, are going on to Project SEARCH, a nonprofit organization that provides employment and education opportunities for individuals with significant disabilities. Some would like to get a job, such as Vanessa Farias, who is planning to apply at a bakery to make cookies and roll dough. For a few, volunteering is the next step. For all of them, plans involved furthering their independence and being helpful to others.
Regardless of which direction they choose, Johnson had words of advice for his friends: “Always believe in yourself.”