Passage to Work Program Graduates Seven

April 25 was the first time several of the seven students participating in CNM’s new “Passage to Work” program graduated in a ceremony donning a cap and gown. And for some, it was also the first time they ever finished a class. The students received certificates of completion for one term of nine-hour coursework that qualifies them for employment with CNM’s community partner Adelante Development Center, Inc.
July 16, 2015

“We were all proud of and excited for them,” said Hannah Abraham-Shea, associate dean of CNM’s School of Adult and General Education (SAGE). “They worked hard for their achievements. The students excelled, not because the courses were easy, but because they taught the program participants what they wanted and needed to know in order to get a job.”

The Passage to Work program gave the seven students with developmental and/or physical disabilities a term of work-preparedness classes where they took courses on work skills such as workplace communication expectations, reading, writing and math. They also learned wellness and life skills. All the courses were geared toward getting the students ready for work. Part of the program was a site visit to Adelante, a nonprofit agency in Albuquerque that provides services to more than 1,000 New Mexicans with mental, physical and developmental disabilities. The students participated in mock interviews designed to assess their preparedness for work. Adelante operates several businesses where people with disabilities can work in a supportive environment as well as EmployAbility, which is Adelante’s employment services program, working with companies in the community to help place individuals in employment.

The classes were held at CNM’s main campus, allowing the students to experience community college life. As CNM students, the certificate participants had full access to CNM student resources, such as the college library, tutoring, academic advising and achievement coaches.

“All of us recognized the importance of honoring the strength of these seven graduates who proudly wore caps and gowns, marched in recessionals, listened to speeches, watched a class video and received their diplomas,” said Pam Etre-Perez, former SAGE dean.

Krista Kelley, Adelante’s vice president of development, said that some of the graduates will be employed at one of the 35-year-old nonprofit agency’s social enterprises – businesses – including a call center, bulk mailing center, assembly and packaging center, document imaging business, document destruction center and computer refurbishing business. Others will receive assistance in finding jobs in the community.

Mark Cornett, director of CNM’s Disabilities Resource Center, was the first keynote speaker at the graduation ceremony. Also speaking were CNM Vice President Phillip Bustos and Passage to Work organizers Abraham-Shea, Alice Trabaudo and Kelley. Giving a particularly moving speech was Derek Roberts, former CNM student and current Adelante employee, who has Asperger’s  Syndrome -- a developmental disorder  that is part of the spectrum of autism.

“My advice to you is not to give up. I waited and I found a job that fits me well, and I am doing what I love to do! It may seem hard at first, but it will be worth it in the long run,” Roberts said.