The Center on Disability and Development at Texas A&M University Announces the 2016 PATHS Graduates (TX UCEDD)

June 13, 2016

The Postsecondary Access and Training in Human Services (PATHS) program at Texas A&M University is honored to announce the 2016 graduates. This year, 21 young men and women successfully graduated from the PATHS certificate program. Family and friends attended the fifth graduating PATHS class. The PATHS certificate program was developed in 2010 by Dr. Cheryl Grenwelge, Director of Transition Service Programs, Associate Professor, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension while working with the Center on Disability and Development (CDD) at Texas A&M University.

The PATHS program is an inclusive certificate program to prepare students with and without disabilities for a career as a Direct Support Professional (DSP) who will work with the elderly or people with disabilities in the community or as a Child Care Professional (CCP) who will work with children. Students with developmental disabilities are encouraged to also apply for the Bridge to Career program, which will provide further support to the students entering the PATHS program.

The Keynote Address during this year's graduation ceremony, featured three previous graduates (L to R: Shelbi Davenport, Riley Biffle and Matthew Mireles) from the 2015 PATHS Program. They reflected on the experiences and opportunities the PATHS program has enabled them to achieve and the goals that they have for their future. Ms. Davenport is attending Blinn College and is certified as a People Planning Together (PPT) trainer. PPT teaches students with disabilities to come up with a plan and find supports for their future. Ms. Biffle is working at the YMCA in childcare and attending Lamar University in Beaumont where she will receive her bachelor degree in Psychology this August. Mr. Mireles has been working at Beautiful Abilities for a year and living with three roommates. They spoke of their successes and challenges since graduating. Whether it is taking a math class, self advocating, or making sure they make time for themselves and for others; they are facing their challenges and achieving the goals they have set after graduating from the PATHS Program in 2015.

Dr. Cheryl Grenwelge, Director of Transition Service Programs, presented the Director's award, one of the most prestigious awards, to Judy Villa. The Directors award is an all around award for an exemplary student who mirrors the Aggie code of honor and trust. A student who gives 100% every day, who provides peer support, and they represent the program in the community well and with honor. Ms. Villa reflected on her time and experiences beginning in the summer of 2015 as a participant in the W.A.C.O. Program (the Work and College Opportunities (W.A.C.O.) project at Texas A&M University. A 5-week program held in the summer for students who are blind or have low vision.) "After I told my parents goodbye, my dream began." Ms. Villa commented. She spoke about going from the W.A.C.O. project to being a participant of the Bridge to Career program (a transitional summer training program to support students in their adjustment to living in College Station including independent living and transportation, as well as help them acclimate to the college culture, schedule, classes and instruction) and finally she began the PATHS program in the fall semester of 2015. Ms. Villa said she enjoyed going to BVCIL and learning the Texas A&M University bus system and traditions. She also pointed out that she injured herself the first day of school that Fall, but she did not let her injury stop her from going to school. "Sometimes if you have obstacles in the way, you just have to adjust to make everything happen." She said. Ms. Villa reflected on her experiences during the year and the many experiences she shared with her classmates and thanked those who have helped her.

Dr. Meagan Sumbera, Associate Director at the CDD, presented the Leadership Award to Jessica Jacks. Ms. Jacks is the silent leader, who would go above and beyond to help. Doing what is asked and more. Always looking for ways to help her classmates. In the practicum part of the PATHS programs students are required to have 135 hours of service during the spring semester. Ms. Jacks had over 350 hours of service. "A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done and his aim is fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves." 

Lao Tzu Ms. Jacks said it was a great honor to come to Texas A&M and attend the PATHS Programs. She had been coming to A&M since she was a little child and loved it very much. With family members having graduated from Texas A&M and taught her the core values that Aggies live by. Excellence, always doing the best job possible Integrity, always doing the right thing Leadership, serving as a role model to others Loyalty, supporting and helping your friends when they need you Respect, treat others as you want to be treated Selflessness Service, giving back to the people and programs that helped you Ms. Jacks stated the core values and how they are used in the PATHS program and will help guide the students in the future. She also conveyed how the PATHS program has helped the students learn to care for people with special needs and elderly. And teaching students to be independent and live independently. Learning to live away from home, to be successful, they learn cooking, how to budget, how to do laundry and learn the bus system and so much more. "Thank you to the PATHS Program, I believe I can be a successful adult." She commented. This quotes sums up what PATHS is all about: "It's about meeting new challenges and the opportunities and new people...Never give up on your dreams. Just because it will take time to accomplish those dreams you can do it!" Dr. Cheryl Grenwelge also presented the Partner of the Year Award to Mosiac.

The PATHS Program has many partners, however the Provider Partners are partners that open their businesses to provide practicum and internships for the students. Mosaic has been a partner since 2012. They have been working with the PATHS Program to develop the student roles in supporting individuals, and helping students learn from their unique experiences and find competitive employment. Mosaic has also hired one of the 2016 graduates who served as an intern. During the presentation of diplomas: Tyler Barnes, Brianna Barrera, Ciarra Chamorro, Andrei Cudnik, Shelby Estlinbaum, Brooke Glover, Alondra Gutierrez, Alaijah Henderson, Jordan Hoskins, Jessica Jacks, Brooke Jordan, Callan Mannion, Kathryn Mascardo, Dustin McGee, Glen Mueller, Jena Riggs, Eric Shahid, Jordan Smiley, Sean Taylor, Julian Vasquez and Judy Villa; were presented with their 2016 PATHS Certificates.

The closing remarks were presented by Mary Whirley, the PATHS Program Coordinator. Ms. Whirley recognized the graduates graduating with honors, wearing maroon tassels. She also reflected on the students when they first came to the program and now to the young adults who are ready to take the next step and tackle the challenges that will ensure they go further. Thanking the graduates for their hard work and dedication that brought them to this point in their career. The Center on Disability and Development at Texas A&M University supports PATHS, Bridge to Career, and the Academy for Direct Support Professionals as well as a number of projects and programs that help improve the quality of life for people with disabilities and their families. As a federally designated University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD), the CDD is part of a national network of similar centers across the country. For more information about the Center for Disability and Development and to learn more about the PATHS program and other programs and opportunities visit the CDD website at

Images from the Graduation Ceremony (Photo courtesy of the Center on Disability and Development) may be downloaded through the photo links on the website:

First row: (L-R) Judy Villa, Jordan Hoskins, Sean Taylor, Brooke Glover, Jena Riggs Second-Third Rows: (L-R) Ciarra Chamorro, Alaijah Henderson, Jessica Jacks, Jordan Smiley, Kathryn Mascardo, Brianna Barrera, Shelby Estlinbaum, Alondra Gutierrez, Tyler Barnes, Brooke Jordan, Julian Vasquez, Eric Shahid, Dustin McGee, Andrei Cudnik, Callan Mannion, Glen Mueller