POUGHKEEPSIE – Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro Thursday joined Dutchess Community College’s President, Dr. Pamela Edington, for Dutchess Community College’s 60th commencement ceremony to celebrate the achievements of 1,030 students, including the first eight students to graduate from the college’s new “Think Ahead” program, at the Majed J. Nesheiwat Convention Center in Poughkeepsie.
County Executive Molinaro said, “We thank Dutchess Community College and Dr. Pamela Edington for continuing to ‘ThinkDIFFERENTLY’ about students of all abilities. Eight ‘Think Ahead’ students join their fellow graduates of the class of 2019 to embark on the next phase of life, taking their experiences, academic achievements, and social skills they’ve gathered along the way and using them to be successful in life and their next steps toward employment as productive members of the workforce. I am proud and honored to celebrate the first ‘Think Ahead’ graduates, especially our own intern, Giancarlo, and congratulate them along with the entire class of 2019 on their achievement.”
A collaboration between Dutchess Community College, Dutchess County Government, Abilities First, Maplebrook School, the Arc of Dutchess and Taconic Resources for Independence, “Think Ahead” was launched in 2017 to offer young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities the opportunity to build job readiness and life skills while experiencing life as a college student on the college’s Poughkeepsie campus. Students also gained work experience through internship opportunities, such as graduate Giancarlo Ballon-Ribaudo, who completed a recent internship in the County Executive’s office. “Think Ahead” is a two-year, non-degree program and follows the college’s academic schedule.
“We remain committed to ensuring all individuals meet their full potential and achieve their personal goals,” said Dutchess Community College President Dr. Pamela Edington. “The ‘Think Ahead’ program supports the shared values of the county and the college and we are proud to celebrate these students’ achievement and future success.”
The “Think Ahead” Class of 2019 students are:
* Michael Beck, Highland
* Kayleigh Bremer, Red Hook
* Kaitlin Denick, Rhinebeck
* Lindsey Gabel, Poughkeepsie
* Patrick Hazel, Pleasant Valley
* Steffan Houseworth, Poughkeepsie
* Andrew Kessler, Poughkeepsie
* Giancarlo Ballon-Ribaudo, Poughkeepsie
“Think Ahead” is a non-matriculated program and can be completed in four semesters over two years. A second class of students began this fall and will complete the program in May 2020. Prospective “Think Ahead” participants must have New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities eligibility and be enrolled in the Home & Community Based Services Medicaid waiver, as well as an Individual Services Plan that supports the program’s course and goals. Additionally, “Think Ahead” students must:
* have completed high school and be at least 18 years old;
* have long-term goals and job interests;
* want to have a job experience;
* have access to transportation to DCC’s Poughkeepsie campus;
* be able to pay basic expenses, including books and supplies and a $25-per-semester college fee.
The father of a daughter who lives on the autism spectrum, County Executive Molinaro established Dutchess County’s “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” initiative in 2015 as a call to action to local individuals, businesses and organizations to foster a welcoming and supportive environment for those with special needs. Since then, more than 100 towns, villages and cities throughout New York State have adopted “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” resolutions, pledging to support those of every ability.