by LORA RAINES
Thirteen students participated in the first CHOICE Leadership Orientation July 9-13 at East Georgia State College (EGSC). Creating Higher Education Opportunities to Increase College Experiences (CHOICE) is a two-year inclusive postsecondary certificate program for students with disabilities. Participants included those enrolling as freshmen for Fall 2017 or exploring a serious interest in enrolling. The Orientation is an introduction to all aspects of college life.
“The biggest success stories come from the smallest groups. CHOICE is like that,” said orientation participant Alexa Slaboda.
Participants were Demetrius Adams of Metter, Skyler Adams of Lyons, McKay Franks of Evans, Sarah Hackney of Bloomingdale, Zoie Harrell of Twin City, Lakenton Johnson of Warner Robins, Ashley Kennedy of Augusta, Cole Norsworthy of Evans, Malcolm Riles of Wrens, Montell Riles of Wrens, Ashby Saylors of Marietta, Alexa Slaboda of Athens and Marqua’Veous Williams of Forest Park.
“I learned a lot, like how to go to classes. In high school, I was babied. This is the most I’ve tried academically in my whole life,” Norsworthy said.
“It was a great experience. I got used to the campus, the setting, the people, waking up on time, and the CHOICE Program,” Williams said.
Assisting with the orientation were EGSC students Gerard Aucoin of Marietta, Brea Heard of Atlanta and Naomi Mason of Swainsboro, and graduates Kasey Hayes of Lyons and Daizah Kelly of Garfield. CHOICE Program Director Theresa R. Davis, Ed.S., conducted the program with assistance from academic transition teacher Lora Raines, Director of Student Conduct Sherrie Helms, and many other EGSC staff members.
Most students stayed in a Bobcat Villas residence hall during the orientation as an introduction to life on campus. Orientation activities related to campus life were “Bobcat Villas, A Living and Learning Community” by Housing Director Angela Storck; “Life at EGSC: Cracking the Code,” “Life at EGSC: Creating Healthy Habits Early” and “Life at EGSC: Tick Tock! Beat the Clock” by Helms; and “Student Life Experience… Making the Most of Your College Experience” by Director of Student Life Vicki Sherrod.
“I enjoyed making new friends and navigating a new campus,” Franks said.
Participants also engaged in “Getting to Know CHOICE,” “Being Your Own Advocate,” “Person Centered Plan Presenting…YOU!” and “The Talent Share” by Davis; “Life at EGSC: Play it SAFE” presented by EGSC Chief of Police Wiley Gammon and officers Heidi Hall, Daniel McCoy, and Steven Way; and “Residence Life Session/Student Life Skits” by Stork, Assistant Director of Housing Shanae Vaifanua, and Housing Safety Assistant Kenneth McClendon. Following this last session was a lively question and answer session about real situations students may encounter in residence hall life.
“I liked the skits,” Harrell said.
“I liked the talent show best. I sang a Chase Rice song,” Kennedy said.
Other campus life activities were group meals on campus with the assistance of Dennis Davis and the EGSC food service staff, “Bobcat Villas Summer Social Drop In,” “Bobcat Cinema,” and recreation in the game room, gym, and fitness centers.
“Meeting new people was great,” Saylors said.
Activities related to academic and career success were “College—What’s It All About?,” “It’s Critical, Thinking like a College Student,” “Ears, Eyes, Hands, and Feet--How Do I Learn and Where Can my Learning Take Me?,” “Tell Me About It: Communicating in Writing,” “Math Makes the World Go Around,” and “Aristotle Said, ‘The Soul Never Thinks without a Picture’—Using Visuals and Text to Find Meaning” by Raines.
“I like the school. Everything was interesting,” Mr. Adams said.
Other sessions were “Financial Aid” by Student Affairs Counselor Ciara Peeples; “The Library Isn’t just for Books Anymore” by Librarian Katie Shepard and “Center for Excellence…ACE IT” by Director Kristin Waters and Coordinator Xashia Sutton of the Academic Center for Excellence.
Other academic and career activities were “Getting to Know Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation” by Shan Bostic with assistance from Stephanie Woods and Krystle Hayes, all of GVRA, and “Finding Your Way, Person-Centered Planning,” involving many EGSC staff members and program assistants.
Person-centered planning (PCP) is a problem-solving process in which persons with disabilities plan for their futures. CHOICE uses the Students Transitioning to Adult Roles (STAR) PCP model through which a student works with a facilitator, family members, and others he or she chooses. This group collaborates to identify the student’s talents and life goals. The group also identifies the student’s status, plans, and needs in the areas of academic enrichment, independent living, self-determination, campus and community engagement, and career development and employment. This information helps the student to seek help and to take steps to achieve life goals.
Most orientation participants will enter as freshmen in CHOICE in Fall 2017. CHOICE has been designated a Comprehensive Transition Program by the United States Department of Education.