Feel Good Friday: Transitioning To Independence

Published: May. 12, 2023 at 5:51 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - University of Toledo students in the Toledo Transition Program are spreading their wings outside their comfort zones.

Students with intellectual or developmental disabilities are referred to apply for the pilot program via their high school counselors or county agencies.

Senior, Brendan Smith, has been flourishing within the program for years.

“I plan on being a voice actor as a stepping stone to being a director. I have a lot of ideas in mind,” he told 13abc’s Sashem Brey.

Brendan’s job coach, Devon McCain, describes Smith as highly intelligent. However, she says that fact is sometimes lost on strangers due to Brendan’s autism and resulting auditory delay.

“He’s kind, he’s witty and sarcastic,” she shared. “If you can give him a minute to respond, you’ll be really happy with what you hear.”

Under McCain’s guidance, Brendan has completed stints at the University of Toledo Medical Center and the Toledo Humane Society. He most recently interned for the City of Toledo within the ICT department. Using these internships to explore possible career paths is a major part of the Toledo Transition Program’s purpose.

“They’re learning skills in the areas of academics, independent living skills, employment skills,” said Program Director Dr. Beth Ann Hatkevich. “The biggest thing is self-determination, to decide what they want.”

Dr. Hatkevich explained that while most people welcome the UToledo students with open arms, some may be hesitant - until they actually have a chance to interact with the participants.

“I think once you get past answering the questions, and when they’re able to meet the individuals that we see in our program, they think, oh perhaps .... it is a win-win,” Hatkevich said with a smile.

As for Brendan, his life-goals have evolved with experience.

“I originally just wanted to make it big. But I realized the point of it all was to communicate things,” he said softly. “These directors have ideas in their mind that they want to share, dreams that they want to convey. And I think I’m finally starting to find mine.”

The Toledo Transition Program accepts about a dozen students for two or four-year tracks. They can be referred through high school counselors or county agencies. To learn more, click here.

To submit an idea for “Feel Good Friday with Sashem Brey,” click here.

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