When UAA student Ric Nelson majored in business, an adviser said something that skyrocketed his determination.
“She told me to quit UAA and go work at Walmart,” said Welson, “and I said, ‘You are out of your mind.'”
In 2010, Welson got his associate degree in small business management. Still driven, he eventually majored in business management and is the vice chair of the Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Special Education. He also works as a mentor coordinator for a program called TAPESTRY.
When people think of the word TAPESTRY, they picture the woven material. However, it is also an acronym for “Transition and Postsecondary Education/Employment: Students, Technology, Relationships and You.”
The TAPESTRY postsecondary transitional program serves students ages 18 to 21 who, like Welson, have cognitive and intellectual disabilities. Mentors guide students in developing social, academic, career and life skills.
Mentor training for the Spring 2013 semester is currently open.
“Ric was on the planning and advisory board of this program at the very beginning. We have implemented what he has gone through into the program so that students have those supports that he knows he missed,” said Lara Madden, TAPESTRY student services coordinator.
The success behind the program is the bond formed between mentors and students. Mentors help students discover their strengths.
Madden said the Anchorage School District often segregates students with learning impairments, so this program is a positive step in the right direction.
Recent statistics show that students diagnosed with intellectual and developmental disabilities account for 13 percent of students provided with special education in the Anchorage School District. The Center for Human Development at UAA’s recent research shows that transition-aged students (18-21 years old) with disabilities do not have adequate transition plans to address future work, education and employment issues.
That’s where TAPESTRY comes in.
While students enrolled in the program benefit from mentors, they do not realize that they help mentors improve their lives as well.
Miriam Polson, TAPESTRY mentor tutor coordinator, said that mentors benefit from the program because they build solid communication skills to carry with them in all endeavors of life.
Society often zeros in on the word “disabilities.” Rather than focus on disabilities, the program aims to focus on a more universal trait: abilities.
In the Oct. 30 edition of The Northern Light, we misspelled Ric Nelson’s name. We erred in describing his disability. He has a physical disability. We also misstated the name of the Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Special Education. Finally, we want to clarify that Ric’s direct quote did not mean to imply that he had started the TAPESTRY program. We regret these errors.