Cadet program in Virgina builds confidence in young adults with disabilities, educates first responders

  • Source: Chesterfield Observer
  • Published: 04/12/2019 12:00 AM

On a frigid early December morning, Travis Akins stood at the front of a conference room in the county’s Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courthouse and took a deep breath, preparing to tell a group of parents something they might not be ready to hear. “We’re not going to baby your sons,” said Akins, a Chesterfield native and founder of Growth Through Opportunity, a 16-week program that provides young adults who have a variety of physical and/or intellectual disabilities with hands-on learning experiences, skill- and confidence-building and socialization through training alongside local first responders. While the program provides opportunities for people with special needs to build self-confidence, learn to work as part of a team and acquire valuable job skills, it’s also meant to be educational for first-responders; they get to experience working with people who have intellectual disabilities in the hope that it promotes mutual understanding and reduces anxiety should they encounter each other in an emergency situation.


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