May 7, 2019, Cuyahoga Falls Ohio: Eleven students were recognized for completion of the ASPIRE program for the 2018 – 2019 School Year at a special event held at the Wing Warehouse in Cuyahoga Falls Ohio. Parents, Students, Woodridge Teachers and Staff, Summit County Board of Developmental Disabilities (Summit DD) representatives, and representatives from Koinonia were in attendance.  Area employers and representatives from CareSource foundation also participated in the ceremony. General Motors is also a generous supporter of this program.

The Aspire Program is managed by Koinonia, in partnership with Summit DD and the Woodridge School System. Aspire empowers youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD)  to realize their full potential by helping them to develop their talents, traits, and abilities. The program enables students to engage in career exploration, social and self-determination training and work experiences that match their personal preferences and interests.

The event was kicked off by John Trunk, Superintendent of Summit DD, “On behalf of the Board, Congratulations to all the Students, and thanks to all the employers and all the families that really help pull it together.” Trunk also recognized Woodridge High School and Koinonia for being great partners.

Julie Abiecunas, Director of Koinonia Enterprises, recognized the Wing Warehouse for allowing students to conduct career exploration at their restaurant and for hiring several adults who had IDD. “They also donated all the food and drinks for tonight’s event,” exclaimed Abiecunas.

Drew Williams, Director of Summit DD’s Community Supports and Development Department said that he “Really appreciates the hard work that the students put in, and the families that are willing to do this program with us in collaboration with Woodridge.” Williams also thanked Wing Warehouse for hosting such a great event.

“It’s been such a great fit,” said Necole Ast, Director of Pupil Services for Woodridge Local Schools. “We’re so excited to renew our partnership again for next year.” Ast also recognized the Paraprofessionals in the audience; Renee Patterson, Adrienne Dougherty, and Erin Korinek, “Their work with our students help them have those great experiences in the community.”

Koinonia Transition Services Supervisor Matthew Magaw recognized two Community Instructors, Amanda Fogler and Allison LeBorgne, for “going out on a day to day basis with the students allowing them to build their job skills and relationships.” Magaw also presented Woodridge Aspire student Noah Culbertson with the inaugural “Julie Slocum Perseverance Award”  According to Magaw, “this award is given to a student that has shown growth and preservice throughout the year in the area of vocation.” Created in honor of  Julia Slocum, an Aspire graduate last year who passed away, the award will be an annual tradition at Woodridge as part of the promise to keep Julia’s spirit alive and to thank her parents for their continued support of the program.

Also recognized at the ceremony were the employers who worked with the Aspire students this year including MA Workwear, National Churches, Discount Drug Mart, Next Level Fitness, Fun n Stuff, Fairfield Marriott, and Legend Lanes.

Two representatives from CareSource Foundation, Eliduvina Aponte and Maria Ritchie, presented Koinonia with a $5,000 check. In a written statement, CareSource stated “Our Foundation Board is highly impressed with your ability to make the Aspire program a success. Koinonia’s commitment to this population is critical, and we are proud to be partnering with you.”

The Aspire program will continue at Woodridge High School for the 2019 – 2020 school year.

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