DCC Holds Professional Completion Ceremony

By Jennifer L. Warren

POUGHKEEPSIE – “You are the helpers.”

John B. King Jr. Ed.D., Chancellor of the State University of New York, proudly affirmed to the 14 member inaugural cohort of the Direct Support Professional Microcredential, inside of the James & Betty Hall Theatre at Dutchess Community College Wednesday morning.

The popular phrase, coined by the children’s television icon, Mr. Rogers, described the individuals who aspire to continue to and-or enter the workforce, caring for and supporting the journeys of people with intellectual and developmental challenges.

Thanks to the SUNY Direct Support Professional Microcredential Program (now offered at 13 campuses) and its partnership with the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) along with their recognition of the specialized skills required to best flourish as a support professional, this free-of-charge, three tiered credential program, aligning with national certification standards and the opportunity to accrue college credits has evolved. The impact it can have on both the support professional’s lives as well as the countless ones they impact is priceless and more expansive than ever.

Florence Oyuko, one of 14 graduates of the inaugural cohort of the Dutchess Community College Direct Support Professional Microcredential, receives recognitions from college and other dignitaries.
Florence Oyuko, one of 14 graduates of the inaugural cohort of the Dutchess Community College Direct Support Professional Microcredential, receives recognitions from college and other dignitaries.

“This is truly a momentous occasion, which has allowed us to build robust curriculum to help our students provide critical support,” said Dr. Peter Grant Jordan, President of DCC, who also spoke of the potency of government, education and employee mergers that this program exemplifies. “Many of these graduates have worked full-time while completing these courses, and have given up a lot.” Looking out to the first group of eager graduates, Dr. Jordan added, “You have chosen a very noble profession, which requires passion, insight and empathy, and today we honor you for your deep commitment to that journey.”

The breadth and profound importance of the work these 14 graduates are now equipped to pursue was emphasized throughout the ceremony. Among those expressing gratitude for the foundation they are building toward that goal was Kerri Neifeld, Commissioner of the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities.

“Your commitment is commendable and inspiring,” said an emotional Neifeld. “The work you are doing is not only about making a living for yourself, but making an unforgettable difference in the lives of the people you work with; what I hear over and over from Direct Support Professionals is that it’s all about helping people.”

In addition to several political dignitaries delivering remarks at the ceremony, students of the program offered first-hand impressions of their unforgettable experience.

“This program was a beacon of hope for me; every time you come here, it’s like a home, just so welcoming,” exclaimed Florence Oyuko, who was shocked to learn of its no tuition needed status. “What I really like about this program is how practical it is, and more than anything: After being involved in it, you come out a different person than you were when you entered it.”

Another student, Ellen Mayer, who came from a long background as a paralegal, was transformed by the beauty of finding her life’s calling-as a Direct Support Professional- later in life. After reflecting upon one of several “enlightening moments,” involving learning about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and how direly critical they are, especially to the population she was studying, Mayer became convinced she wanted to become one of those “helpers” Dr. King alluded to in his remarks.

“The more you help people meet their needs, the more you will help meet your own,” said Mayer. “Being a DSP is one of the best jobs no one tells you about.” Reflecting further, the visibly touched Mayer added, “Mark Twain once said the two most important days of your life are the one you are born and the day you find out why; thank you to this program for reminding me why.”

With 173 people signed up for the second DSP Cohort, the popularity and potential of the program looks extremely promising. That promise got sweetened even more at the conclusion of the Completion Ceremony when Neifeld invited all cohort members and dignitaries up on to the stage for a very special announcement: the investment by Governor Kathy Hochul of $32 million through 2030 into the Direct Support Professional Microcredential Program. Six new campuses are set to add the program to their offerings, and a 6,000 more potential stronger Direct Support Professional workforce which will now be able to benefit from all this career offers to the countless lives it transforms.

“I’m so thrilled to announce this,” said Neifeld. It’s a win-win-win for everyone involved.”
Not only are workers in this field equated with “helpers,” but so too something else.
“You give us hope in a world that can be a dark place,” said King as he surveyed the 14 member class. “You make the world a better place.”

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