Fairmont, W.Va. – On Tuesday, Pierpont Community & Technical College’s PRIDE Academy held a fall festival for its students and the college at Pierpont’s Gaston Caperton Center. At the event, guests were provided many holiday-themed treats, opportunities to play games, and interact with various programs at the college.

The PRIDE Academy, or Pierpont Rapid Intellectual Disabilities Education, provides postsecondary transition programming and comprehensive support services to individuals with intellectual disabilities, where students learn basic life skills and earn vocational certificates.

The fall festival event allowed the PRIDE Academy to get into the holiday spirit while teaching the students the fundamentals of throwing a party. Students performed various tasks to prepare and disassemble an event. Second-year students of the program were given job skills tasks, including vacuuming, cleaning, and organizing the tables, while the first-year students, who focus on life skills, were tasked with planning the menu.

“We went over how to host parties, rather than just go to a party, which is a big difference,” said Dr. Darin Walker, director of the PRIDE Academy. “Then after, they will have to clean up, which isn’t fun but is necessary. Setting up a party and planning a dinner are all life skills, all of which revolve around our teaching curriculum.”

“For the last couple of weeks, we’ve talked about what a good host does at a party,” added Michelle Graham, first-year instructor for the PRIDE Academy. “We’ve made lists of things we needed to get and prepare for the day of the party and how we can ensure everybody had a good time when they came to visit us today.”

An additional goal of the event was to give the PRIDE students a chance to interact with other groups around campus. By inviting different programs, including students from dual enrollment, early childhood/laboratory preschool, and physical therapy assistants, students were able to have positive interactions with unfamiliar individuals.

“One of our major goals is to interact with those not on the spectrum or have Down syndrome,” said Walker. “So, by inviting others down, our students can interact with somebody they don’t know and see that strangers are not scary, which is very positive for our students.”

The PRIDE Academy continues to brighten the community with the hands-on learning it provides to those who may not have the opportunity at higher education otherwise. Walker noted just how meaningful it is for the students being at Pierpont.

“If you sit and talk to any of these kids, they are all so excited to come to Pierpont and so proud of going to college,” said Walker. “Most of them have gotten Pierpont shirts, and I will see them out in public wearing them, and they are as proud of that as anyone going to any university anywhere. Most of these students and their parents never thought this was possible.”

For more information about Pierpont Community & Technical College, visit pierpont.edu.

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