A Step Above

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In May, Aggies Elevated’s Class of 2019 graduated with two-year certificates and brilliant career prospects.

Of the three AE classes that graduated before them, 100 percent are now employed either full or part-time. For perspective, the national employment rate for people with disabilities is currently 19 percent, compared to 70 percent for the general population

“We’re pretty excited about those numbers,” says Sue Reeves, the program director.

The comprehensive transition program offers young adults with intellectual disabilities an away-from-home experience that prepares them for living independently. Aggies Elevated teaches—and expects—a high degree of independence from the young adults enrolled. While the employment numbers are impressive, they’re not necessarily a surprise.

“I have had confidence that the students would all eventually find job,” Reeves says. “I think we give them a really firm foundation in what it takes to look for a job, successfully interview for a job, and keep the job.”

That foundation includes career exploration and mock interviews with a network of volunteers. Reeves tries to make those interviews as true-to-life as possible, and it creates some real jitters for the students. Another component of the program is internships.

“They are sometimes paid, often unpaid, but that experience on the resume seem to make the difference,” Reeves says. “I think that’s one of the keys for our success.”

five seniors in their graduation robes smiling

Four out of five graduates of the 2019 Aggies Elevated cohort are going on to continue their education. Photo by Sue Reeves.

She has also cautioned her students that while they may eventually land in their dream job after a series of “stepping stone” experiences, it’s pretty rare for them to get there right out of Aggies Elevated. Still, “I’ve been delighted at some of the places that they’ve found to work that are close to their dream job, right after they graduated.”

For Jenna Mosher, the dream job is down the road a bit, but only because she is now attending Utah State University, working on a bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies. And she has learned a lot from the AE program to get where she is.

“They taught me how to get around town, they taught me study skills, they taught me social skills, they taught me daily living skills,” she says. “From where I was in high school to where I am now, my confidence has just skyrocketed.”

Like Mosher, four of the five 2019 graduates will go on to continue their education.

Official 90-day employment numbers for the 2019 class are not yet available.

By JoLynne Lyon
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