Students from high schools across Shelby County recently participated in the first meeting of the 2016-2017 school year for the Young Adults in Transition (YAiT) program. The students visited the campus of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) on November 1 where they participated in campus tours, team building exercises, and heard speakers from the university’s Disabilities Support Services department.
The Young Adults in Transition program, which provides support to students with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is currently in its second year. Originally funded through a $9,000 grant from the Alabama Council on Developmental Disabilities, the program was renewed through a $25,000 grant awarded in February 2016 and will be extended through February 2017 with an additional $8,200 in funding.
The funding enables the YAiT participants from all seven Shelby County high schools and those participating in Project Search to be exposed to post-secondary options as well as self-advocacy procedures. Students learn employability skills and self-help strategies to achieve their transition goals. Students also get the opportunity to interact with other individuals and peers who have overcome their own challenges and have become successful.
Since the program was first implemented, three joint meetings with all participating students have been held at Jefferson State Community College, the Shelby County Instructional Services Center, and most recently UAB. Attendance has increased from 40 to 150 participants and other school systems have attended to use Shelby County as a model for implementing YAiT in their systems. This year all of the schools will form local school level chapters, which will meet similarly to other organized clubs.
“Through this grant opportunity, we’ve seen a tremendous growth in enrollment and attendance including not just our Essential Pathways students but students of varying exceptionalities,” said work instructor Laura Partain. “YAiT students are actively planning topics and speakers for upcoming meetings by completing interest inventories on career, education, self-advocacy, and other needs that they determine.”
The joint meeting at UAB was planned and organized by DeeDee Bruns, Executive Director of New Student Programs and Timothy Alexander, who became paralyzed in a car accident in 2006 but still went on to become a scholarship student-athlete at UAB.
Alexander was a guest speaker at the very first YAiT meeting and has become a vocal supporter of the group. His motivational messages to the students never fail to inspire the students. This year, he encouraged them to get other students involved in YAiT at their local schools through the motto of “each one, bring one.”
“There are 140 of you here today,” he told the students. “If each one of you will bring someone to YAiT then there will be 280. YAiT helps to provide resources and opportunities to students. If you want to be a hero and change someone’s life, go out and share the information you learned about today. ”
Alexander stressed that YAiT helps to provide a support system to help the students overcome their challenges.
“I had a great support team,” said Alexander of overcoming his own obstacles. “I am a very positive person and don’t like to deal with negativity. But, we all have challenges and we aren’t support to keep all these challenges in. We are supposed to let others in to help support us. It helps to inspire others by pushing them and getting them to embrace their uniqueness. It helps to build their self-confidence.”