Students with Disabilities Blaze Trail at UT

The University of Texas at Austin E4Texas project awarded ten students Certificates of Completion on May 11, 2019. The E4Texas program immerses students with and without disabilities into college life at the University of Texas Austin campus. Students come to the university campus from around the state.

E4 Texas is project of the Texas Center for Disability Studies. Students who take this program are focused on certification as personal care attendants while building independent living, self-advocacy, and social skills.

"I learned to be professional when communicating with our employers as well as our clients," class valedictorian Randall Jackson said.

Charles Martinez, Dean of the College of Education at the University of Texas at Austin, shared personal remarks stating that the E4Texas students exemplified the ‘Who' of the university motto "What Starts Here Changes the World'.

The Texas Center for Disability Studies (TCDS) piloted the E4Texas program in 2018-19. E4Texas provides a post-secondary experience for High School graduates and those who obtain a GED to attend college to develop as young adults. Many young people do not have an opportunity to attend college due to rigorous standards for typical college students. However, the TCDS, the College of Education, and the University of Texas believes in providing growth experiences for diverse populations.

During the first semester, students learned how to live independently and become a part of their community. Students also had the opportunity to testify at the Texas state capitol where they shared their experience and life testimony to Texas law makers.

"It was an awesome opportunity to see these students share their experiences and personal stories while testifying at the capital," said E4Texas Project Coordinator Joe Tate.

Throughout the second semester, students volunteered at various health service agencies and work to obtain their personal care aid certificate. To obtain certification, students learn about emergency care, medical terminology, first aid, and personal care ethics. After completing the training course and passing a written exam, students are eligible to receive their certification.

Mentors and job coaches support students throughout the three semesters and are a key source in providing guidance and instruction.

"It was very impressive to see how many job offers the students were getting after the extensive networking and work readiness prep we did," said E4Texas Project Coordinator Jigna Patel.

The final semester involves students obtaining internships to showcase the skills they learned throughout the year. Internship guidelines requires the student to accept an integrated and competitive position in an environment within various health service agencies. At the end of the program, all 11 students had a job in a competitive position.