When Eric Lewis moved from Columbia to St. Louis for his first day on campus at the University of Missouri – St. Louis (UMSL) he was nervous and scared. Eric wasn’t sure how he would adjust to his new settings having never lived away from home. Eric now has a semester under his belt and is thriving as a student in the UMSL SUCCEED program and already planning his future career.
Eric has received services from Boone County Family Resources for more than a year, and his Support Coordinator Sherry Nemeth has watched Eric take on more challenges and gain confidence in trying new things.
“It is wonderful working with Eric. He is a great example of an individual who does not let his disability hold him back from achieving his short-term and long-term goals,” said Sherry.
From fall 2017 to spring 2018, the staff of the BCFR Life & Work Connections Program provided Eric with individual support to advance his budgeting and cooking skills. During this time Eric also worked with a staff member of the BCFR Life & Work Connections Program to complete the Life Course curriculum.
“Eric completed these trainings so he can be as independent as possible and best prepare for future independent living,” stated Sherry.
Eric is the first individual served by BCFR to be accepted into the SUCCEED program. According to UMSL’s website, SUCCEED is a post-secondary program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities ages 18 through 25 years. Program participants can earn a Chancellor’s Certificate by completing the two-year residential program. The program is designed to encourage and facilitate students to gain independence through academics, vocational experiences, and residential/student life. They use Person-Centered Planning to ensure that each student is working toward personal goals related to individual development and independence. They also recognize the importance of comprehensive communication and support and value the importance of partnering with families to ensure that each student develops self-determination skills.
“It was challenging at first, it was a little scary. Just doing something new and not having family around,” said Eric about his first day at UMSL. Once classes started and he was settled into his new environment, he said, “It felt good.”
Eric enjoys meeting other students, making new friends and the nurturing environment created by the SUCCEED faculty and staff. His willingness to learn and positive attitude helps him excel in the program.
“He is very dedicated to his academics and vocational goals. Eric was a joy to have in class because of his contributions to our discussions, and because he was always willing to go the extra mile and help other classmates when they needed it,” boasts Director of the SUCCEED program Jonathan Lidgus who had Eric in his First Year Experience class last semester.
Eric is preparing for a career in the landscaping business and looks forward to taking a Geology class next semester. Another class he is excited to start is Job Skills class.
“I will learn how to get a job, practice interview skills, and get my future good to see my potential,” Eric said.
BCFR plans to support him in his transition from the SUCCEED program at UMSL to finding gainful employment in Boone County after he graduates. Sherry believes Eric’s drive to achieve maximum independence has and will continue to serve him well in years to come. Securing a job is one step towards building a life on his own, and Eric is excited for what the future holds.