POUGHKEEPSIE – Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro joined Deputy Commissioner for Special Needs Toni-Marie Ciarfella and Dutchess Community College’s president, Dr. Pamela Edington, to welcome students to the college’s new “Think Ahead” program, which offers young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities the opportunity to develop job readiness and life skills while partaking in the college experience on the Poughkeepsie campus.
College officials on Tuesday held orientation for the students, introducing them and their families to the “Think Ahead” instructor, Julia Quattrocchi, as well as familiarizing them with campus facilities, touring classrooms and taking part in FalconFest, the college’s annual fall semester kickoff celebration.
County Executive Molinaro said, “We thank Dutchess Community College and Dr. Pamela Edington for choosing to ‘ThinkDIFFERENTLY’ about students of all abilities. By providing these students with this opportunity to gain a valuable experience as a college student, DCC will give these individuals the necessary academic and social skills that can lead to success upon completion of this program. This program will use curriculum that focuses on specific job-readiness and life-skill training, allowing these students to develop the tools they need to hold a job, earn a paycheck and the responsibility that comes with it.”
“Think Ahead” is collaboration between Dutchess Community College, Dutchess County Government, Abilities First, Maplebrook School and the Arc of Dutchess. It is a two-year, non-degree program and will follow the college’s academic schedule.
“As Dutchess County’s public institution of higher education, we’re committed to ensuring that all individuals meet their full potential and achieve their personal goals,” said Dutchess Community College President Pamela Edington. “The launch of the Think Ahead program reflects the shared values of the county and the college and we are so pleased to welcome these students to our campus and college community.”
Eight students are registered for the non-matriculated program, which will be completed in four semesters over two years. Upon successful completion, students will participate at graduation to receive a Certificate of Achievement. The curriculum is based on job-readiness training – a combination of professional, practical, interpersonal and social skills – and job experiences on the DCC campus will also be available to “Think Ahead” students.
Prospective “Think Ahead” participants must have New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities eligibility and be enrolled in the Home & Community Based Services Medicaid waiver, as well as an Individual Services Plan that supports the program’s course and goals. Additionally, “Think Ahead” students must:
- have completed high school and be at least 18 years old;
- have long-term goals and job interests;
- want to have a job experience;
- have access to transportation to DCC’s Poughkeepsie campus;
- be able to pay basic expenses, including books and supplies and a $25-per-semester college fee.
The father of a daughter who lives on the autism spectrum, County Executive Molinaro established Dutchess County’s “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” initiative in 2015 as a call to action to local individuals, businesses and organizations to foster a welcoming and supportive environment for those with special needs. Since then, more than 60 towns, villages and cities throughout New York State have adopted “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” resolutions, pledging to support those of every ability.
This past June, County Executive Molinaro hosted the County’s inaugural “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” for Jobs round-table forum, gathering some 100 businesses and community leaders to discuss the importance of hiring residents with all abilities and its benefits for companies and the community. The “Think Ahead” curriculum and training were designed to provide the skills and qualities needed for potential job candidates.
Deputy Commissioner Ciarfella said, “Students of all abilities deserve the chance to succeed and contribute to their community. The new ‘Think Ahead’ program is Dutchess County’s latest effort to highlight the important role every resident has in our society – preparing students with all abilities to enter the workforce and deal with the responsibilities of a job. I laud County Executive Molinaro, Dr. Edington and our community partners for their inclusive thinking and willingness to create this important program, which will set these students on the road for success.”