Community Based Transition Program: A Welcomed Extension of the Empower TN Family

Ritu Ghatourey once stated, “One of the bravest things you can do is acknowledge and support the strength in others.” Bravery is exactly what I have witnessed in the participants of the MNPS Community Based Transition Program or CBTP, peer support groups. I started working for Empower Tennessee last July 2016, and began leading peer support group discussions last October. In the few months I have had the privilege to facilitate them, I have seen students exhibit true courage in their willingness to openly and honestly mentor each other. While becoming ever more self-aware and expressive, every student is evidence that peer support is an important and successful strategy for empowerment and independence. That is why Empower TN values and nurtures our relationship with everyone involved with the CBTP. Kate Deitzer, Transition Coach & Business and Community Liaison, coordinates with 3 of our IL Specialists – Sheri Anderson, Birtha Street, and myself – who facilitate bimonthly peer support groups in 7 CBTP classes. Each class consists of students ages 18-22 who have cognitive, behavioral, and/or developmental disabilities. Each participant has the opportunity to share personal stories, discuss recent or upcoming activities, and interact with those who have related challenges and triumphs. Through the exchange of authentic life experiences, students address social and emotional realities while building confidence, gaining wisdom, and having fun. Facilitating peer support groups for the CBTP students is like mentoring an extended part of the Empower TN family. I know I speak on behalf of all Empower TN when I say we deeply appreciate every administrator, teacher, job coach, and participant that makes this happen. Thank you CBTP for your partnership and allowing us to provide peer support for your wonderful students! I look forward to building on our success of the past three months. In this new year, there will be times of joy and periods of challenge; so, I want to conclude with this quote from Helen Keller, “We could never learn to be brave and patient if there were only joy in the world.”

Contributor: April Meredith, IL & Advocacy Specialist