Niagara University held a graduation ceremony Monday afternoon. It didn’t come with the pomp and circumstance that this weekend’s exercises will entail, but it was no less important.
NU’s Bisgrove Hall provided the scene where 11 participants of the Transition Readiness for Employment in the Community (TREC) program received completion certificates. TREC, a collaborative program between Niagara University and Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara (OUN), endeavors to assist individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities to accrue the skills necessary for community-based employment.
This year’s class included Darell Beason, Patty Beck, Ray Boyd, Scarlet Cosgrove, Corey Cunningham, Robert Hurtt, Bert Jermy, Ryan Nickerson, Andrew Seitz, Letitia Stephens and Joe Sullivan.
Since the program was launched in 2009, 52 participants have earned certificates.
Chelsea Riedl and Meredith Nevins are graduate students from NU’s College of Education who helped facilitate this year’s classes. They are part of the team the offered program participants guidance on how to present themselves professionally, communicate effectively, develop good work habits, accept supervision, utilize technology, and more.
“Over the past two years, I have watched these students grow in so many different ways by stepping outside of their comfort zones to try new things and make new friends,” said Riedl. “It has been so rewarding to watch them encourage and support one another, but they also showed me over and over again how important it is to have faith in yourself.”
Nevins agreed, saying, “This opportunity has allowed me to watch the students grow, as well as notice growth within myself. I felt that with each week that passed, I was learning right along with the students. Although I am saddened to see this come to an end, I truly believe it is just the beginning of the great things these students will accomplish in their lives.”
In addition to pre-vocational skills, TREC students also meet with human resources and career development professionals from Niagara University, as well as business community leaders and members of Opportunities Unlimited’s board of directors. Those experiences helped them to learn more about career exploration and the skills employers are seeking.
“I had the opportunity to observe classes one morning at Niagara University and was pleasantly surprised by the difference I saw in our participants. They showed a self-confidence that I had not seen before,” offered Joanne Kumm, assistant director of vocational services at Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara.
To ensure that the participants are able to continue to enhance their technology skills, Niagara University donated nine computers that are currently being used in a lab at OUN’s Niagara Falls location.
“We are involved in a lot of things in the community and this is one that we’re certainly very proud of,” acknowledged Patti Wrobel, assistant dean of NU’s College of Education.
The significance of Monday’s event was illustrated by the presence of several university administrators, including the Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, Niagara University president; Dr. Tim Downs, vice president for academic affairs; Dr. Debra Colley, dean of the College of Education; and Bob Pfeil, director of human resources.
“It makes me happy to see all of you here,” Fr. Levesque said to the participants. “It makes me happy because I know that we can help you accomplish all of the things that you want to accomplish in life. Our students can help you – and you can help yourselves.”