Maggie Guillaume has been interning with Frazer’s Child Development Program (CDP) since September. She is learning classroom management by modeling the lead and assistant teachers in her assigned classroom. Maggie’s goal is to be a paraprofessional in an elementary school setting, and this hands-on, practical experience with Frazer is confirming for her that she’s on the right path.
Maggie came to Frazer via the Georgia Tech Excel Program, an inclusive “four-year college program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) leading to two separate certificates.”
In the Excel program, student activities are focused on “academics, social fluency, independent living, career exploration, and development.” The Excel students live on campus and are paired with volunteer mentors who are traditional Georgia Tech students trained to assist the Excel students with meeting their goals, which may be centered around independent living, social activities, or fitness. Students also have access to career coaches and tutors.
Excel students take career development courses throughout their four years at Tech, and they have an internship every semester except the very first one. Nathan Heald, Career Development Coordinator and Lecturer in the Excel Program, says the students gain the most through experiential learning. “They get to try out jobs they’re interested in and build their resume. We want the students to learn what’s a good fit or not.”
Heald was already familiar with the Frazer Center and reached out to see if there might be an opportunity for Maggie. CDP Director Susie Riddick interviewed Maggie and decided to move forward with the internship.
“The Excel program is great,” says Susie. “They thoroughly train the students to be on their own, helping them get from point to point in their career development, like scaffolding.”
Inclusion is a big component of the Excel program. Maggie is a junior now, and during her tenure she has had the opportunity to audit traditional classes along with the required Excel courses. She has studied such things as art history, environmental science, psychology, human development, and industrial design. Outside of academics, her mentors have helped her with things such as cooking and navigating MARTA and ride-sharing options so she can commute independently.
That independence is expanding into her work too. “She’s taking on more responsibility,” says Ms. Cathy, the lead teacher in the Frazer classroom where Maggie is assigned. “She’s more social and engages more now. I asked her to model us, and she is learning how to coach the children. She loves reading to them and drawing with them. It’s great to have Maggie in the classroom.”
“I love it!” says Maggie. “I really like being in a school setting where I can observe the kids and understand them better. I can help them.”
“Maggie is learning a lot of practical skills,” says Heald. “She is really enjoying it, personally and professionally.” And because this arrangement has been so successful, Susie and CDP Assistant Director April Jones recently attended an Excel networking event to meet more students for possible future internships. Frazer’s partnership with this amazing Georgia Tech program promises to help all involved excel.
To learn more about the Georgia Tech Excel Program, CLICK HERE.