May 19, 2008

Southsider in Innovative Program Now a UNF Grad


Somehow, Briana Kristen Moore maintained a poise of quiet confidence despite a twinge of nervousness.

The Southside resident was patiently waiting to walk across the stage at the University of North Florida's Robinson Theater during the recent Spring Awards Convocation. Within minutes, she would officially become the first graduate in an innovative program that allows students with developmental disabilities to experience the full breadth of college life: classes, campus activities and friends.

Moore's steps across the theater stage started two years ago when Kristine Webb, an associate professor of education at UNF, and Charlotte Temple, director of advocacy for The Arc Jacksonville, began a discussion of how young people with disabilities could greatly benefit from the same exposure typical young adults encounter.

The On Campus Transition Program arose out of those discussions. Operated as a joint program by UNF and The Arc, it was started two years ago to offer young adults ages 18 to 21 the opportunity to experience college life, participate in campus activities, audit classes and be mentored by fellow UNF students.

Funding for the program comes via The Arc Jacksonville Academy, which provides the teacher and other support services while UNF provides the space for the center in the heart of campus activities.

"I am tremendously optimistic and excited about the OCT program and the direction the program has established within our UNF community," Webb said. "The benefits for the students enrolled in the OCT program are numerous and comprehensive. I believe the advantages for UNF students, faculty and staff are of equal importance because of the firsthand information and insight OCT students can provide."

The program is for individuals who have a developmental disability and have completed high school coursework. Additional requirements include the ability to travel independently, personal means of transportation and previous community work experience - volunteer or paid.

"Once in the program, students audit classes that they're interested in," Temple said. "They also are teamed up with a study buddy, who not only helps them study but provides social mentoring as well."

Among the classes Moore audited were "Introduction to Education" and "Library Information Support." Her goal is to work in a library.

"OCT students also participate in paid and unpaid internships at various off-campus and on-campus business and facilities," Temple said.

As Moore was about to be called on stage, Mark Workman, the convocation's master of ceremonies, began to describe the transition program and her achievement at becoming the program's first graduate.

"This award is being given to our first graduate of the university's On Campus Transition Program, Ms. Briana Kristen Moore," he said. "UNF's commitment to diversity is unwavering.

The On Campus Transition Program ... has as its goal creating innovative transition programs for young adults with developmental disabilities.

"The OCT program and its students have enriched the campus community," Workman added.

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