History will be made during the University of Alabama's Spring 2022 Commencement Ceremony Saturday night as six students will graduate from the inaugural CrossingPoints Certificate in Occupational Studies Program.

The program is a three-year, non-degree certificate program awarded through the College of Education at the University. The programs provide young adults with intellectual disabilities aged 18 through 26 the opportunity to pursue post-secondary education.

The CCOS program is the third phase in its overall program, which was added in 2019. The students follow CCOS curriculum while also taking inclusive courses at UA and living on campus.

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While in the program, students were required to reach their academic enrichment goals by passing their UA courses, completing a portfolio demonstrating their understanding of skills for independent living and demonstrating self-determination and self-management. They were also given opportunities to gain experience for their chosen careers through paid employment.

Amy Williamson, program coordinator for CrossingPoints, said she is excited to be a part of this moment in history.

(Brittany Marshall|Tuscaloosa Thread)
(Brittany Marshall|Tuscaloosa Thread)

"We read history in history books and we think about all these things, these moments in time that happened that were ginormous and this is one of those and
we get to live it, not just read about it so it's really, really exciting," Williamson said.

Jasmine Burns, employment coordinator for CrossingPoints, said the graduates either have job opportunities lined up or have interviews set up for future employment. Burns said her support for the students will not end once they graduate and will continue to be available to make sure each student receives employment.

"Even if it takes three months, six months, nine months or even a year after they graduate to find that employment that they're really looking for, I'm here to make sure they get it," Burns said.

Maeghan Deloach, one of the six graduates, said she is excited to be graduating from the program. After graduation, she plans to move back home to Birmingham and find a job in the sports industry.

"It's so exciting to have college experiences and to celebrate with family and friends. It feels great. It's really fun" Deloach said.

Colby Spangler said he made so many friends while in the program. He is looking forward to starting his dream job of working with wildlife soon.

"I'll be helping with animals to take care of them," Spangler said.

(Brittany Marshall|TuscaloosaThread)
(Brittany Marshall|TuscaloosaThread)

Williamson said the opportunity to give students with intellectual disabilities the same collegiate experiences is important.

"There are so many lessons beyond the academic part that you learn when you're
in college. You learn to make decisions for yourself and be on your own; meet new people that are going to be in your life forever and ever," Williamson said. "For our students to have that same experience and that same moment and now be ready to go out into the world and get those careers that they're interested in; the word exciting doesn't feel like it carries enough weight for what this moment is really about."

The six students will walk Saturday at 7 p.m. at Coleman Coliseum with the CrossingPoints staff cheering them on as they receive their certificates.

"We will be there, tissues in one hand and shakers in the other, to cheer for them as they walk across that stage," Williamson said.

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