The Center on Disability and Development at Texas A&M University announces the 2017 PATHS
COLLEGE STATION — The Postsecondary Access and Training in Human Services (PATHS) program at Texas A&M University is honored to announce the 2017 graduates. This year, 36 young men and women successfully graduated from the PATHS certificate program. The PATHS certificate program was developed in 2010 by Dr. Cheryl Grenwelge, Director of Transition Service Programs, Associate Professor, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension while working with the Center on Disability and Development at Texas A&M University. The PATHS program is an inclusive certificate program to prepare students with and without disabilities for a career as a Direct Support Professional, who will work with the elderly or people with disabilities in the community; as a Direct Support Para-Professional who will work with school districts; or as a Child Care Professional who will work with children.
Dr. Dalun Zhang, Director of the Center on Disability and Development welcomed everyone to the 2017 Graduation ceremony, while Dr. Shaunta Singer, PATHS Program Coordinator presented the Director’s Address.
This year the first of the Keynote Speakers was Dr. Cheryl Grenwelge, who shared the PATHS history and vision. It was her vision to develop programs to help provide students with disabilities the opportunity to go to college and the opportunity for competitive employment in the field of their choice. With this vision, the development of the PATHS Program began. She and other colleagues, Dr. Dalun Zhang and Jeff Garrison-Tate wrote the program model to support youth with disabilities to come to an inclusive setting and experience a post-secondary program in a career of their choice. In 2012 the PATHS program had 12 graduates; this year the program has tripled that number with 36 students graduating from the program.
The PATHS Program has had national recognition as well as international recognition as an exemplary program. Dr. Grenwelge is currently working on a grant to replicate these program models in 10 universities across the state. The program at Texas A&M University will now be directed by Dr. Singer while Dr. Grenwelge focuses on the development of the other 10 programs.
Dr. Grenwelge stated to the graduates, “It is because of you and subsequent PATHS graduates that have changed peoples perspective on what individuals with disabilities can do if allowed the opportunity.”
Three 2016 PATHS graduates also spoke as Keynote Speakers, Mr. Tyler Barnes, Ms. Ciarra Chamorro and Ms. Judy Villa. They spoke after a short interruption as everyone was evacuated for a fire alarm at the Memorial Student Center.
Mr. Tyler Barnes spoke first as the graduation ceremony resumed. He is currently a substitute for the Physical Education program with the College Station Independent School District. Describing his duties with the school district and with an after school running club.
He also talked about his struggles, “Trying to compete with A&M students trying to get a job in College Station. It is HARD!”
“My advice to you is, keep trying. Do not give up, keep applying. Do not give up.”
Ms. Ciarra Chamorro was the next keynote speaker and is currently working at MOSAIC, a faith-based organization serving people with intellectual disabilities, as a direct support associate. She has been with them for over a year. She began working with MOSAIC while a student in the PATHS Program and continued to work with them after completing the program.
She spoke of her supports and her challenges, “Some of the challenges I’ve faced were just simply becoming an adult. Let me say there’s nothing simple about becoming an adult. It’s very hard. I’m still going through it.”
Her advice to the graduating students, “Go and live your life. Be bold and stand out there. guys, life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
Ms. Judy Villa, the final keynote speaker, is attending Blinn College and is looking forward to a career in education. Judy was also the winner of the PATHS Director’s Award last year.
Ms. Villa reflected on her experience over the last year as a college student. Encouraging the graduates, “If you like to go to school, study hard core and have lack of sleep and drink a bunch of caffeine early in the morning… go for it!”
“Everybody has a passion in life. Even if you want to go to work or school in your degree. Go for it, and be unstoppable.”
Dr. Shaunta Singer, PATHS Program Coordinator, and Judy Villa presented the Director’s award, one of the most prestigious awards, to Ms. Morgan Shiver.
The Directors award is given to an individual who acts on behalf of others. They are able to see the big picture of issues and lead others to find their individual strengths while not losing focus of the overall goal. At the same time they are able to look at the details of matters to ensure the success of themselves as well as others. They are able to take charge but they consider the perspective of others. In many situations this person is appointed, informally, and is often sought out when difficult decisions need to be made.
Ms. Shiver spoke about the determination, hard work, and bravery for her classmates and her to be in the PATHS Program. The challenges and goals of learning to live independently. As well as the training and skills that were developed in the program. One of the many goals and challenges that stood out was, “To overcome the perception of failure with dignity and confidence.”
She concluded saying, “Over the past 10 months my sister, Hailey, and my family have also watched me successfully pursue my goals. This gives me great pride and a real sense of accomplishment.” … “Yes, I know how it feels to become a member of the of the Texas A&M Fighting Aggie Family, Gig ’em!”
Mrs. Ruth Davenport, Program Manager presented the Leadership Award. Leadership is one who leads. This leader stood out as one who is able to oversee several things going on at once, but to be that leader that people can look up to. That each of the students can come to; to go that extra mile to go out of her way to help others and to be that leader.”
The Leadership Award was presented to Ms. Callie Simon.
Ms. Simon was born with cerebral palsy. She spoke about her condition, but also described how this condition has made her unique and has taught her how to overcome adversity.
“This program has pushed us all to excel past our comfort zones and into a life of independence.”
Ms. Simon did her volunteer work at Crocket Elementary, where she enjoyed helping and getting to know the children.
“I think I speak for all of use when I say this program has taught us useful life skills; like professionalism, interview skills, and a whole lot more.”
Dr. Shaunta Singer also presented the Partner of the Year Award to Sabrina Fronterhouse, Volunteer Coordinator for Bryan Independent School District. The PATHS Program has many partners, however the Provider Partners are partners that open their businesses to provide practicum and internships for the students.
During the presentation of diplomas: Caila Brewer, Ryan Carwile, Philip Clasen, Molly Clifford, Marissa Colorado, Harley Cox, Liz DeBenedictis, Annastasia Eggebrecht, Duran Erdem, Averi Fister, Enrique Gonzales, Rosa Gonzalez, Brenda Hernandez, Maegan Herrington, Kaylin Ingle, George Langenstein, Alexis Little, Makaylee Maloy, Ana Marroquin, Lori Meyer, Nicole Michel, Jacoby Nealey, Jake Newman, Hannah Parish, Colby Parker, Macailyn Phares, Jessica Powell, Lourdes Romero, Elyssa Sampson, Stephanie Sauseda, Samantha Seidel, Morgan Shiver, Callie Simon, Kendall Tate, Jenna Vaden, and Roy Young, Jr. were presented with their 2017 PATHS Certificates.
The closing remarks were presented by Mrs. Ruth Davenport, the PATHS Program Manager. Reflecting on the graduates – ready to face the world. How they have been taught to go out into the world – face the bumps and mistakes along the way. How to pick themselves up and keep going with the skills the program has taught them.
“Go forth and be the best you that you can be.”
The Alma Mater, Spirit of Aggieland, was led by Ms. Riley Biffle, PATHS Instructor as well as an alumni of the PATHS program.
The Center on Disability and Development at Texas A&M University supports PATHS, Bridge to Career, and the Academy for Direct Support Professionals as well as a number of projects and programs that help improve the quality of life for people with disabilities and their families. As a federally designated University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD), the CDD is part of a national network of similar centers across the country.
For more information about the Center for Disability and Development and to learn more about this program and other programs and opportunities visit the CDD website at cdd.tamu.edu.
Images from the Graduation Ceremony (Photo courtesy of the Center on Disability and Development) may be downloaded through the photo links on the website:
PATHS Graduates 2017
First row: (L-R) Macailyn Phares, Hannah Parish, Rosa Gonzalez, Brenda Hernandez, Kendall Tate, Kaylin Ingle, Marissa Colorado, Molly Clifford, Liz DeBenedictis, Ana Marroquin, Jessica Powell, Samantha Seidel
Second-Third Rows: (L-R) Philip Classen, Alexis Little, Nicole Michel, Morgan Shiver, Jenna Vaden, Annastasia Eggebrecht, Lourdes Romero, Calia Brewer, Stephanie Sauseda
Third row: (L-R) Callie Simon, Makaylee Maloy, Elyssa Sampson, Jacoby Nealey, Ryan Carwile, Averi Fister, Enrique Gonzales
Back row: (L-R) Harley Cox , Roy Young, Jr., George Langenstein, Colby Parker, Maegan Herrington, Jake Newman, Duran Erdem