This year’s ceremony to have a good time the achievements of Auburn University’s college students with mental disabilities, or EAGLES, included every little thing from laughter and tears of pleasure, to standing ovations and surprise scholarships and endowments.
Held May 6 on the Auburn Alumni Association headquarters on College Street, the 2022 awards luncheon was a festive and well-attended affair that had one thing for everybody, together with enjoyable, meals and even a go to from Aubie himself. The ceremony served as an upbeat finish to a banner year for the EAGLES program, which is a component of the Department of Special Education, Rehabilitation and Counseling, or SERC, within the College of Education.
Luncheon attendees included former Auburn Board of Trustees member Sarah Newton, all 9 EAGLES who participated in graduation after finishing two- or four-year certifications, different EAGLES college students and their households, campus companions and workers. Bradley Basden, Josh Greiner and Anna Moates—who established the program’s first cohort 4 years in the past—have been honored for finishing the four-year expertise, whereas Grace Davis, Andrew Day, Rosa Juan, D’Vonte Morris, Sadie Weldon and Luke York have been celebrated for fulfilling the two-year program.
JoAnne Coggins, chair of the EAGLES Engagement Council, started the day’s remarks by speaking about how far the program has come and the distinctive alternatives it offers all who develop into concerned.
“We are so proud of our program and our staff,” mentioned Coggins, a 1975 Auburn graduate. “To be an advocate for and educate folks a few program like it is a nice alternative for us. To the graduates, I’d similar to to say congratulations for all of your laborious work, all of your persistence, your humor, your steerage and all of the stuff you’ve been capable of educate members of the council and the workers.
“You EAGLES who are graduating and others who are still in the program are going to be the next group of pioneers. You are going to take this program forward and take all that you have learned here to assure that the next generation is going to have much better opportunities than even you have had. Please keep dreaming about what’s coming next.”
College of Education Dean Jeffrey Fairbrother despatched alongside a particular video message for the scholars and celebration attendees.
“Today is a great day for the EAGLES program and the College of Education,” Fairbrother mentioned. “To our graduating and persevering with EAGLES college students, on behalf of the complete College of Education, please know that we’re very proud of you. Today is a chance to have a good time all you’ve gotten completed, and additionally it is a possibility to set new objectives.
“I encourage you all to keep challenging yourselves and continue soaring to new heights.”
The group additionally was handled to a video from Jay Gogue, who handed over the reins as Auburn University president to Christopher B. Roberts on May 16.
“This is a special day where we get to say thank you and congratulations to our EAGLES students and graduates,” Gogue mentioned. “It’s notably particular as a result of I perceive that is the primary time we’ve had a four-year cohort that has graduated, and so we’re awfully enthusiastic about that commencement and about every of you, every household and what you’ve executed.
“A university is about helping people achieve their hopes and dreams, and certainly the EAGLES program plays an important part at Auburn University.”
Awards, accolades abound
Several awards have been doled out on the celebration, together with the Outstanding EAGLES Student award that went to D’Vonte Morris. Morris was one of six EAGLES college students who accomplished his two-year program on the finish of spring semester, and he was all smiles throughout his acceptance speech.
“I am honored to accept the Student of the Year Award,” mentioned Morris, who additionally took residence the “Most Helpful” honors throughout the superlatives portion of the day. “In the previous two years, I’ve improved my independence, time administration and [ability to] be a beautiful scholar. I’ve had the chance to work and attend social occasions, hang around with my buddies and have enjoyable alongside the way in which.
“Being part of this program has made me realize a lot about myself as an individual. This inclusive education program has given me a new view of the world, and it has made me realize that, if you believe in yourself and put in the work, anything is possible. I hope that I continue to learn and grow so that I can one day live independently in the real world.”
Newton, a longtime EAGLES supporter, obtained the Legacy Award for her steerage and keenness for the program.
“Today is a dream come true for me,” mentioned Newton, who served as a trustee for 14 years. “To the dad and mom, thanks for entrusting us with your most precious possession—your youngsters. I do know it was laborious to go away them the primary time, so thanks for believing in Auburn. I simply need to say thanks to our college students.
“It seems just like yesterday that Bradley, Anna and Josh arrived on campus, and I remember that day. You were all very excited but filled with just a little angst. You have completed four years, and it’s amazing. I’m so proud of you. Students, because I believe in you, I believe in Auburn, and I love it. I can’t wait to see what you do when you go out and change the world.”
Erin Greer, a Birmingham native who graduated summa cum laude with a level in rehabilitation and incapacity research, was honored because the excellent peer mentor from the Warm-hearted Individuals Nurturing Great Success, or WINGS, group that works in tandem with the EAGLES college students. Greer will proceed her research on the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the place she has been accepted into the Doctor of Occupational Therapy program.
“Without a doubt, this was the best part of my college experience,” mentioned Greer, whose adopted brother, Garrett, has Down’s Syndrome. “I wished to be concerned with the EAGLES program in order that I may foster new relationships, promote inclusion and independence and perceive extra about incapacity throughout the larger schooling system. My household adopted Garrett virtually eight years in the past, and he modified my life eternally.
“Inclusivity is rooted deep into my heart and in the hearts of so many others here. I seek to live in a world where disability isn’t seen as an interference to normalcy, but where people are defined based on who they are on the inside rather than by societal labels. I will take all the valuable lessons I learned here in this program and use them to empower more individuals to go after their dreams, just like so many of you have done here.”
Other awards included: Outstanding Employment Partner of the Year—Helen Baggett, Auburn Athletics; Outstanding Residence Life Partner of the Year—Lindsey Sharpe, University Housing; and Outstanding Campus Collaborator of the Year—Lindsey Piazza and Laura Plexico, Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences.
Super surprises galore
Professor Jeff Reese, head of the SERC division, added a curve ball to the program by saying an array of surprises. Reese delivered the monumental information that the program has obtained an nameless present of greater than $3 million that can safe the long run of EAGLES for a few years to come back.
“The donor is addressing immediate needs while providing the program with matching dollars for increased scholarships,” Reese mentioned. “The goal is to create enough scholarships for every EAGLES student. The donor has helped safeguard the future of the program so that each year the program will have additional capital and resources to support students.”
Reese additionally revealed that Betty Patten, director of the EAGLES program, obtained the inaugural Jay and Susie Gogue Endowed Directorship for her dedication to taking the EAGLES to new heights. Under her management, EAGLES has thrived in its objectives of offering a postsecondary schooling alternative for college kids with mental disabilities to have interaction in a two- or four-year campus expertise whereas serving to them obtain their employment and impartial residing objectives.
“Under your leadership, EAGLES has flourished in a short time,” Reese mentioned of Patten. “Your passion, your vision and seemingly endless energy—along with your wonderful staff—have transformed the EAGLES into a gold-standard program. EAGLES has become interwoven into the Auburn fabric and in the Auburn Family, and I am so proud of the EAGLES program and that they are housed in our department.”
In his video, Fairbrother echoed Reese’s reward for Patten, an assistant scientific professor of particular schooling who has been concerned with the EAGLES program since 2019 after incomes her doctorate in particular schooling from Auburn in 2017.
“You have been a fierce advocate for the EAGLES program, successfully expanding your staff and graduate support for students, adding new on-campus and off-campus partnerships to strengthen the program and enrich the student experience and fundraising more than $5 million to help underwrite meal plans, housing and scholarships to help make the program more accessible to all,” Fairbrother mentioned of Patten. “Your work ethic is truly exemplary, and your heart for service and students is inspiring. It is only fitting that Auburn’s first-ever endowed directorship be awarded to a person with your character, integrity and passion.”
While overwhelmed and really honored, Patten rapidly shifted the main focus of the occasion again to the EAGLES and people who laid the groundwork earlier than her.
“I’m so thankful, but don’t want this to overshadow the EAGLES,” Patten mentioned. “You are why we’re right here at this time, and I’m so grateful to be an element of your journey. I’m excited for all that has occurred and all that’s to come back. I really really feel the very best is but to come back for the long run of our graduates and this program.
“We choose to take this program in a direction that doesn’t just benefit people individually, but holistically in a way that is not only filled with excellence but is sustainable so that more people have this opportunity. Before you know it, this will just be something that exists everywhere and won’t be celebrated in the sense that it’s remarkable, because you all are already remarkable individuals who deserve to be a part of every conversation and have a seat at every table. You are changing the way, and I’m so excited.”
Patten then introduced a surprise of her personal, the institution of a scholarship named in honor of one of the EAGLES’ founders, retiring SERC Professor Karen Rabren. Rabren, the Mildred Cheshire Fraley Distinguished Professor, obtained the Pioneer Award and was shocked to find her legacy will reside on eternally within the type of the Karen S. Rabren Endowed Scholarship.
“After a lifetime of work in the field of special education and transition, she has dedicated her life to service,” Patten mentioned of her mentor. “She has invested her time, power and sources along with all she has executed for college kids with disabilities. She has supplied transformational change, not simply in her household, however in her neighborhood, right here at Auburn University and for each single EAGLES scholar and their households.
“She has integrity, lives her life with purpose and does everything with excellence. Dr. Rabren has had a long journey in the field of special education and transition, and she also has endured a lot of challenges to help make sure this program was safeguarded over the years.”
Onward and upward
The festivities included an official welcome for the graduating EAGLES and WINGS peer mentors into the Auburn Alumni Association household by Danielle Fields of the Auburn Office of Advancement. Fields introduced the creation of an EAGLES and WINGS Auburn Affiliate group that can assist with scholarship fundraising and outreach efforts.
“Often times, when you think about graduation, you think about goodbyes, but at the Auburn Alumni Association, we really view graduation as the beginning of a new chapter,” Fields mentioned. “We welcome you into the family and want to make sure you have opportunities to take Auburn with you and stay connected with the university that gave you so many great memories. We want to ensure that you take a piece of Auburn with you wherever you go when you graduate, so we are working diligently to develop this affiliate group that will be impactful and inclusive of your time, your talents and your treasures.”
Stacy Greiner-Farmer, the mom of EAGLES four-year graduate Josh Greiner, supplied the dad and mom’ perspective and capped the day’s remarks with thank-yous and recommendation.
“Four years ago, they started as EAGLES students at Auburn University. Now, they are Auburn students who happen to be in the EAGLES program,” Greiner-Farmer mentioned of the program’s first cohort. “You are all a real illustration of Auburn, the Auburn Creed and the EAGLES program, and I’m proud to know that this program continues to have good, considerate and wonderful folks to hold on the legacy. To all of the graduates—proceed to be lifelong learners, proceed to place into observe all of the Auburn expertise and EAGLES has taught you, reside by the creed, immerse yourselves into all issues Auburn and roll Toomer’s each likelihood you get.
To the dad and mom, my recommendation to you is to take pleasure in each minute, help and information, don’t management, go to the tailgate, go to Toomer’s, grocery store and attend a gymnastics meet. You’ll be pleasantly stunned.”
Greiner-Farmer closed with ideas about what the program and Auburn has meant to her and her son.
“This is a gift that at one time was not an option,” she mentioned. “It has meant alternative, high quality of schooling, friendships to final a lifetime and recognition for capacity. It has meant that Auburn has a tradition that’s inclusive. It implies that our son can stroll throughout a commencement stage alongside with his friends and have a good time this ceremony of passage.
“It means that, when Coach Bruce Pearl deemed Auburn the ‘everything school,’ that ‘everything school’ included the EAGLES. I understand that Auburn Family is forever.”