Greater Opportunities Project teaches students work skills

The+program+is+an+extension+of+the+Austin+Independent+School+District+which+has+brought+students+18-22+years+old+onto+the+St.+Edward%E2%80%99s+campus+for+the+last+thirteen+years.

The program is an extension of the Austin Independent School District which has brought students 18-22 years old onto the St. Edward’s campus for the last thirteen years.

Staff Writer

If you dine in Ragsdale you have probably noticed a few workers who don’t wear Bon Appétit uniforms. Diligently wiping down tables and filling napkin stations, these folks have become staples of the St. Edward’s University scene. What you may not know is that these individuals are not just working hard at cafeteria duties – they are developing skills for employment beyond college.

The workers are actually students in the Greater Opportunities Project, or GO for short. The program is an extension of the Austin Independent School District which has brought students 18-22 years old onto the St. Edward’s campus for the last thirteen years.

The goal is to promote socialization for students in the program with peers in their same age group. Additionally, inside of a classroom in the Woodward Office Building, up to 10 students work on learning some basic skills that others might take for granted.

GO Project Teacher Leslie Vlasman said the program focuses on teaching the students to “be the kind of person you want to be with”.

Vlasman, along with teacher’s assistants Angela Hernandez and St. Edwards’s graduate Sam Ogden, work with the GO students through worksheets, homework and daily coaching to prepare their students for lives after they graduate from the program.

The students’ abilities can range widely, and as such, the program works hard to develop each student to their highest potential.

Catching up with the students during their lunch, it’s easy to see the cohesiveness that has formed. A familiar electric wheelchair with a New York Yankees jersey emblazoned on it is parked in the corner. It belongs to GO student Brandon Gonzales.

When asked about his favorite part of being on St. Edward’s, he said, “working with the baseball team!” Brandon explained he helps out with the men’s baseball team by gathering bats and helmets and cheering them on.

“He (Gonzales) was so happy; he cheered more than half of the other guys out there,” A.J. Hermanson, a Topper Baseball player, said. “It makes you happy to see someone with a disability be so positive. It brings people up.”

If you’re looking for a way to help out with the program, there are opportunities to intern with the GO Project, but a more immediate way is to volunteer for the upcoming Rosedale Ride fundraiser on March 28.

Vlasman and Hernandez both emphasized the need for volunteers, specifically as flaggers.

For more information on the Rosedale Ride, visit http://www.rosedaleproud.org. To find out a little more about the GO Project you can go to http://www.austinschools.org/goproject.

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