PALS Program First Graduation HeldBy Annette Zeeb
Twenty-five graduates all dressed in bright blue commencement robes walked or wheeled their way through the procession as Pomp and Circumstance played. The Honorable Senator Don Gaetz, former Florida Senate President, provided the commencement address. Gaetz was instrumental in the creation of the PALS program, which must annually fight for funding.
The Arc Gateway Program for Adult Learning and Support (PALS) held their first graduation on Friday, December 9 at the Pensacola State College Ashmore Auditorium on the Pensacola Main Campus. The PALS program is a two-year post-secondary education program for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities made possible by an annual appropriation from the State of Florida. The goal of PALS is to provide substantial and relevant learning experiences within an inclusive college setting that leads to meaningful employment.
Nine of the graduating students are already employed, which exceeds the goal of 25 percent employed within six months of graduation. One student has her State of Florida Esthetician License, one has developed a successful microenterprise, two students are engaged, and some will continue with their college experience. Countless opportunities and connections have been developed over the two years.
Gaetz stated, “Each of the 25 students are amazing and making history.” Gaetz ended by expressing his appreciation to Pensacola State College for their partnership in this college-to-career industry certification for real jobs for individuals with unique abilities. The third class of 36 students starts in January of 2017. He acknowledged the strong advocacy and the early support of Belle Bear, a local philanthropist, for making sure the program got funded and developed to meet the need in the community for these students. Both Gaetz and Bear stated this was the most exciting and rewarding graduation they have attended.
The Arc Gateway Program for Adult Learning and Support (PALS) held their first graduation on Friday, December 9 at the Pensacola State College Ashmore Auditorium on the Pensacola Main Campus.