Since launching Colorado's first inclusive higher education programs in 2016, we have now seen 44 students with intellectual and developmental disabilities graduate from college and take their next steps in becoming independent adults. One of our inaugural graduates, Jazmine, shares with us about the challenges and joys of life after college and how her ability to access inclusive higher education programming prepared her for the life she always dreamed about.
"I’m most proud of achieving goals I was told by some that were not possible for me. Those goals included going to college and living on my own. My ambition and perseverance have created a truly independent life where I have my own apartment, a fantastic job, an amazing boyfriend, and a lovable dog. It’s all come together for me and I couldn’t be more happy."
In 2020, Jazmine graduated from the Elevate at ACC program, earning her certificate as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). She went on to attain her first two jobs in the healthcare industry. Jazmine shares that it was difficult at first. She was forced to navigate workplace accommodations and complex co-worker dynamics with very little outside support. During these early stages, Jazmine learned to strengthen her conflict-resolution skills and improve her critical thinking, ultimately preparing her for the work she does now. Jazmine has since worked as a Dietary Technician at Sky Ridge Hospital. She indicates that this is the perfect position for her, melding together her natural desire to help people and her passion for meeting patients' nutrition needs. In this role, Jazmine is directly applying the knowledge she received from the nutrition courses she took at ACC. Although Jazmine struggled in her first two jobs prior to landing at Sky Ridge, she is happy to report: “I feel that this is where I belong. It’s been a great work experience. I love the hospital, the work I do, and my co-workers are very supportive and understanding." In fact, Jazmine has done so well in her current position that she has earned multiple awards and accolades from co-workers, management, and patients!
"I’ve learned that I am resilient. I’ve experienced a lot of adversity, but because I persevered, I have achieved personal greatness in the form of independence. I feel in many ways, I am in control of my own destiny.
In addition to landing her ideal employment, Jazmine has also taken the step of living independently. As of January, Jazmine has moved into her first apartment with her own dog. Jazmine says Elevate at ACC prepared her for this new phase of life in a variety of ways. She relied on public transportation to get to campus, which equipped her with the skills to travel around the Metro area independently. Additionally, Jazmine explains that “my computer experience strengthened my competency so that I can pay bills myself online."
"The two most important things I gained through my college experience were learning to be independent and self-advocating. I wouldn’t be as successful living on my own without that invaluable experience.”
While inclusive higher education was the catalyst for Jazmine's success, we acknowledge that it takes ongoing support from friends, family, and community resources to continue growing in independence. When asked what supports helped Jazmine succeed, she acknowledges the benefit of having strong familial support, as well as other organizations like DVR, AIM, Developmental Pathways, and R&A Homecare. Jazmine also accessed Medicaid waivers in many ways and seeks out various benefits like the affordable housing complex, the Affordable Connectivity Program, and SNAP.
Jazmine’s parents are incredibly proud of her accomplishments and exclaim how she has exceeded their expectations! They believe that, “Elevate at ACC prepared her in so many ways. There, she acquired confidence and learned to self-advocate... I think the critical key to it all is that Jazmine had to embrace it and we had to allow her to do it! It’s hard to let go after so many years of closely supporting and protecting her, but allowing that to happen and trusting her was a crucial step to her future success and independence.”
Jazmine’s mom, Charmaine, shares the following words of wisdom:
Students: Learn as much as you can. Be open to people in your life that offer to teach and coach you, listen to them, then take action. Have confidence in yourself and your abilities – you WILL grow in time and with practice. Don’t get discouraged, anticipate that there will be obstacles, but find the strength within yourself to overcome them. Don’t lose sight of your goals and remain determined.
Parents: Our children with disabilities have so much to offer. Help them achieve their potential by preparing and supporting them the very best that you can… then, trust them!
We are incredibly proud of Jazmine. She is an example and inspiration to so many! We can't wait to see all the ways she continues to impact her community and empower fellow young adults with disabilities to pursue their dreams. Keep exceeding expectations, Jazmine - you can do anything!