By Sarah Weller
CAMPUS SPOTLIGHT: P.A.C.T.
By Sarah Weller
Assistant Focus Editor
Providing Access to Community Transition, or P.A.C.T., started in the fall of 2001, is a free program which aids young adults ages 18-21 with mild to severe physical and mental disabilities in the completion of high school. Essentially the classroom, our own Davidson Hall 102, functions as a Jefferson County Public Schools classroom, but works in conjunction with the University of Louisville to give these students an opportunity to experience a college campus while finishing their high school curriculum. The students in this program are provided with a University of Louisville ID card to assure access to the same things as regular U of L students. This is beneficial for many reasons, including the opportunity to interact with other students their age and being able to participate in some college courses, such as HPES, Spanish, and Acting classes. This is becoming such a popular program that there is actually a waiting list for students to get in. P.A.C.T. is available for 10 students at a time for up to three years, or until age 21, which is the oldest legal age to graduate high school in Jefferson County. During a regular day in the P.A.C.T. program, which runs from 7:00-2:00, the students are given opportunities to participate in other activities once their school work is finished, which was a surprise to many of them at first.
“I tell them: you finished your work in here, and your work for your classes, so you can go play basketball until 1:30, and they look at me like ‘Really?'” says the program’s director and classroom teacher, Michele Agee.
Agee absolutely loves her job. She has been teaching special education for 10 years. She started out teaching elementary school students, but became tired of it after a while. While planning to no longer teach special education at all, Michele was contacted by the Jefferson County Board of Education and asked if she would like to start a new transitional program for high school students with disabilities. She was worried about it at first, but she was honored to be the one asked to break ground on what is on its way to becoming a remarkable program, and has loved it ever since she started.
“When you come in here and meet these kids, you just fall in love. They’re awesome,” she declares.
Agee, along with two teaching assistants, helps the students in this program prepare for life after graduation. She gets in touch with companies and agencies to help them find jobs, as well as apartments, for those ready to live on their own. She also helps them get experience with grocery shopping, setting up bank accounts, and numerous other things many of us might take for granted. A few of these students find work on campus, including one student that works at the University Club restaurant next to the Student Activities Center. The students are shown how to fill out job applications, how to interview when they are called for a job, and a teacher will accompany them to their job training until they get settled in.
In addition to regular class work, classes here at U of L, and spending time at the gym and other on-campus facilities, these students go on some off-campus field trips to places like the Louisville Free Public Library. The P.A.C.T. students are also greatly appreciated by the staff of The Cardinal for helping in the distribution of our newspapers every week. A program with an opportunistic attitude and innovation like P.A.C.T. leaves room for its students to have experiences that would otherwise be limited in a regular high school setting. In the spring of 2002, the P.A.C.T. students participated in a Special Olympics Basketball League, in which three of them teamed up with three of their non-disabled peers and competed against other teams in the league. This was something the students and the teachers really enjoyed.
For only entering its second year, P.A.C.T. has come a long way. It is the only program of its type in Kentucky, with only a few others like it in the country. P.A.C.T. is an all-around great program and something of which the University of Louisville campus should be very proud. I was very impressed with the enthusiasm of the teachers, as well as the many prospects these students have, as opposed to attending a Jefferson County high school where their options would be more restricted. These people work very hard, and they deserve our support. Michele Agee and the rest of the P.A.C.T. staff have sent letters out to many organizations, including the Greek Advisory Board, to let everyone know that P.A.C.T. is happy to have anyone who wants to volunteer to come hang out with these students, walk with them around campus, and do activities with them. It is not only a perfect opportunity for Community Service hours for people, but also something fun for anyone who is looking to have a good time with some new friends.
“Come hang out with us!” Says Michele Agee.
If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering for P.A.C.T., you can get in touch with Michele Agee by dropping by at Davidson Hall 102, or by calling 852-4428.