By Dave Ongie, Managing Editor
The mood was festive last Friday morning in Grand Topper Hall as a pair of Science Hill students announced their intention to join ETSU’s Access program.
Miles Bennett and DeAngelo Pender both successfully navigated the competitive selection process and will begin their college journey at ETSU in the fall. They celebrated with a signing ceremony in front of their teachers and classmates.
Edwin Santana, Transition Case Manager at Science Hill, has known Bennett for around 8 years and Parker for nearly 10. He said Friday’s ceremony was the culmination of a lot of hard work by both young men.
“’I’ve gotten to see them grow and develop over the years, so that’s a beautiful thing,” Santana said. “I’m very excited to see them move on, and this will really open up things for them in the future.”
The Access ETSU program offers supplemental support to young adults with intellectual disabilities who seek to enhance their academic, career development and social skills alongside their peers at ETSU. Melody Blevins, a project manager at ETSU, was on hand for Friday’s ceremony and said Bennett and Pender set themselves apart from the other applicants during a stringent interview process.
“This year we had 22 applicants and we had four spots to fill, so it was very competitive,” Blevins said.
“For me, it’s very exciting,” Blevins continued. “A lot of what we do is about knocking down barriers and making sure college is for everybody who wants it.”
Santana noted that Science Hill students have blazed a trail to ETSU through the Access program since it started three years ago. He said a Science Hill student was part of the inaugural class, and four more students joined last year.
“Programs like this are growing across the state and nationwide,” Santana said. “It’s great for them to have the opportunity to further their education.”