Student Story: Campus Newspaper


Below, Grace Wohlberg shares her experience participating in the Voice, Norwalk Community College's student publication.  Her story, "Finance Class Helps Students," was featured in their December 11, 2017 publication and is pictured below.

My name is Grace Wohlberg and I have been attending the College Steps Program at Norwalk Community College (NCC) for two years. College Steps has allowed me to pursue my passion for learning via their mentor and social integration programs .  I really enjoy reading and writing and I have focused on these interests by taking English classes.  I particularly enjoyed my journalism and public speaking classes.  I have met so many new people with interesting stories of their own.  I joined the school newspaper, the Voice, and have made new friends. The Voice allows me to learn about the different events  going on around the campus and I enjoy interviewing people as well.  All in all, College Steps has really enhanced my college experience and has given me the confidence to face new situations. 

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Student Story: Art Classes and Off-Campus Outings


My name is Christopher Potter and I have been a student at College Steps-Norwalk Community College (NCC) for almost two years now. One of my goals for being a college student at College Steps is gaining experience in something new or that I haven't done before. I have had the chance to take several courses at NCC: English, Graphic Design I, 2D Design, Drawing I, Ceramics, and Digital Imaging: Adobe Photoshop. So far, my favorite course has been Ceramics-- I have been working with the same professor for two semesters now and have gotten to know her. I have been working on creating original plates, model houses, statues, and tiles. My favorite project so far was the plates project because it was interesting to transfer pictures on to the plates. 

Christopher's favorite ceramics project: transferring images onto plates. 

Christopher's favorite ceramics project: transferring images onto plates. 


My favorite part about being a College Steps student is hanging out with friends and peer mentors. Every Wednesday I also take the bus into the community with a Peer Mentor. I enjoy being able to pick a place, plan out my trip, an then go with a peer mentor on the bus. I feel like I have gained independence from using the bus- by purchasing/using a ticket, planning my trips, learning bus routes. I have traveled to the following places on the bus; Matthews Park, local cafes, the Norwalk Public Library, and local museums/galleries.

Christopher on a trip out in the community to the Norwalk Public Library. 

Christopher on a trip out in the community to the Norwalk Public Library. 


College Steps student and peer mentor at Southern Vermont College honored as youth leaders

College Steps student 

College Steps student 

We are so proud of College Steps student, Alyvia Metcalfe and peer mentor Amber Archer for their leadership and hard work!

The following article appeared in the "Bennington Banner" on Sunday, December 10, 2017: 

Students Amber Archer and Alyvia Metcalfe will receive the Deborah Lisi-Baker Youth Leader Award from the Vermont Center for Independent Living, Southern Vermont College has announced. The awards will be presented by VCIL's executive director, Sarah Launderville, and Deborah Lisi-Baker at VCIL's Holiday Open House on Thursday, Dec. 14, from 4 to 6 p.m. in the First Baptist Church at 601 Main St.

The Deborah Lisi-Baker Youth Leader Award was created by VCIL's board of directors in 2006 in honor of the disability rights organization and emerging leaders who believe in the promise of disability rights and independent living movement. For much of her life, Lisi-Baker has advocated for human and civil rights of people with disabilities. She served as VCIL's executive director for many years and retired in 2009. 

Archer, of North Troy, is a sophomore majoring in radiologic sciences at SVC. She is a mentor in the College Steps program at SVC. In addition to Archer's volunteer efforts on campus and in the community, she learned American Sign Language and has worked at a local high school with deaf and hearing-impaired students. According to Darcy Oakes, program coordinator of College Steps at SVC, "Her work with young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities on the College campus supports them in reaching their academic, vocational, social and independent living goals." 

Metcalfe, Bennington, is a second-year student at SVC through the College Steps program. Due to her influence and extensive social network, Meltcalfe has facilitated connections whereby her fellow College Steps classmates have become engaged in work experiences with local business owners. Metcalfe is well connected with United Counseling Services in Bennington. She is currently working in an internship at Bringing You Vermont and is employed at Price Chopper. Oakes, who nominated Meltcalfe, said, "Alyvia is happy to use her influence to forward not only her own goals, but also the goals of her friends and peers." 

College Steps partners with colleges and universities to support students of varying ability (e.g., autism spectrum disorders, intellectual disabilities and learning disabilities) with their college pursuits. 

Behind the Label at NOVA Loudoun

Photo credit: Scott Lusk

On November 8th, A Place to Be came to NOVA Loudoun to present Behind The Label.  This powerful show reminded us to look inside people and ourselves, and realize that we are more than just labels.

A Place to Be, a performance-based music and drama therapy program in Virginia, describes their show Behind the Label:

"40 powerful minutes filled with monologues and music that explain what it’s like to live with various challenges including Autism, Down Syndrome, ADD, Anxiety, Cerebral Palsy, Depression, Traumatic Brain Injuries, Heart conditions, Dyslexia, and many other medical and life challenges. Written by the brave young people who struggle and triumph over their challenges every day, the goal of the project is to help teach people to see beyond diagnosis, beyond labels, and into human beings. "

College Steps student, Scott Lusk photographed the event. 

Photo credit: Scott Lusk

Photo credit: Scott Lusk

Photo credit: Scott Lusk

Photo credit: Scott Lusk

USBLN 2018 Annual Conference and Expo

The US Business Leadership Network is currently recruiting college students and recent graduates with disabilities for the 2018 Rising Leaders Initiatives!

Applications are now open for the 2018 Rising Leaders Mentoring Program and Rising Leadership AcademyDeadline to apply is December 18th, and the application can be found through this link:

 2018 Rising Leaders Mentoring Program and Rising Leadership Academy Application Form.

Mentorship has a big impact on students transitioning from school to work and employment. So far, 40% of Rising Leaders mentees from the 2017 Mentoring Program have gained employment since it began. They also had 17 job offers extended to their students by the end of the week at the 2017 Rising Leadership Academy. A flyer of the programs can be seen below.



Student story: College Student, Vocalist, Firefighter

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My name is Johnny Bairaktaris, and I have been a student in the College Steps Program at Norwalk Community College for almost one year. Currently, I am taking three courses at NCC; two of the courses are exercise classes, and the other course is a chorus class. Exercising is one of my passions; I work out every day and being in good physical shape is important to me. Additionally, I am passionate about singing. I have been singing since I was about 8 years old and chorus is something that I love taking. This past summer, I earned my Guard Card through NCC.

Since I was young, I have always wanted to be a firefighter; a job where I am helping people and saving lives is important to me. This past October, I was sworn into the Southport Volunteer Fire Department, as a active Volunteer Firefighter. Additionally, with the support of College Steps, I became a Probationary Firefighter for the Rowayton Volunteer Fire Department. I look forward to taking on more responsibilities for both departments. Every Thursday, at the Rowayton Fire Department, I participate in drills-- this is the highlight of my volunteer experience. 

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Open House at both the Annandale and Loudoun campuses

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College Steps is a non-profit organization that partners with Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) at both the Annandale and Loudoun campuses to provide support for college/college-bound students living with social or learning challenges (e.g., learning disabilities, autism, developmental, or intellectual disabilities).

On Thursday, December 14th from 6:00-7:00 PM, we will offer an Open House at both the Annandale and Loudoun campuses. Please RSVP by December 8th as space is limited. 

Register for the Open House at NOVA - Annandale

Register for the Open House at NOVA - Loudoun

Please contact Brya Emery, Director of Admissions & Enrollment with any questions at or 802-578-0035.

We look forward to meeting you!

College Steps student at NOVA: Loudoun is a Rising Star

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Rose Pleskow is attacking life without boundaries.

"She has a competitive spirit, she wants to do better, she wants to go faster," said Denis Crean.

Born with intellectual disabilities and epilepsy, the Reston, Virginia, native competes internationally in open water swimming.

"My mom started swimming when she was pregnant with me, so I've been swimming all my life," said Rose Pleskow.

Pleskow trains with a group called WaveOne Swimming in the Potomac River at National Harbor, Maryland, with her mom right by her side.

"Just to look up and sometimes our faces meet," said Susan Pleskow. "It’s just pure heaven to me."

Rose is one terrific athlete, along with open water swimming, she’s quite the runner as well.

Back in 2011 at the Special Olympics World Games in Athens, Greece, she won the bronze medal in the 1500 meters race, which is just a perfect example of Rose being able to do anything she puts her mind to.

"When I won the bronze medal, I almost cried because I worked so hard for it," said Rose.

Now, she's focused on starting college and getting a degree.

"Don’t let the people in the past tell you that you can’t do anything because you can do it," said Rose.

Rose is definitely becoming a leader everybody should follow.

Autistic Scholars Fellowship 2018

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The application for the Autistic Self Advocacy Network's scholarship program for autistic college students, the Autistic Scholars Fellowship, has been released. You can find that application and more information about the scholarship here. ASAN would really appreciate if you could distribute the application to anyone you think would be a good candidate for the Fellowship, or who might know someone that would be. Thanks so much for your help, and feel free to let ASAN know if you have any questions or would like to talk more about the resources ASAN has for autistic adults and college students!

College For All Town Meeting at CSU

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Bernie Sanders will be holding a “College for All Town Meeting” at Castleton University on October 10 at 7 p.m. to discuss his legislation that would provide free tuition to all students who attend public colleges and universities.


The event will also be livestreamed on the Senator’s official Facebook page (


Students in Vermont and throughout the country will be participating in their own events to join the Senator in supporting “College for All” legislation.


If you are able to attend, please RSVP with Senator Sanders’ office, by completing this form.

Future Quest 2017

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I am happy to announce that registration is now open for Future Quest 2017! To register as a vendor please click on this link:


Also, please be sure to help spread the word to all parents, students and educators who would benefit from this fantastic event.


Future Quest is a FREE college and career conference held every two years for middle and high school students with disabilities, young adults with disabilities, their families, and professionals who work with them. It is organized by George Mason University and the Northern Virginia Transition Coalition. One of the largest events of its kind in Virginia, Future Quest features more than 40 workshops and 40 exhibits related to successful life after high school. 


Registration Flyer


Future Quest Main Information Site





Department of Labor Presentation hosted by College Steps at Southern Vermont College


College Steps at Southern Vermont College was very happy to host a jobs and careers workshop on campus. We are grateful to Melany from the Vermont Department of Labor for sharing her talent and expertise. To contact Melany for more information and resources:

Melany Letourneau

Job Center Specialist II, GCDF

 WIOA Adult/DLW Case Manager


Vermont Department of Labor

200 Veterans Memorial Drive

Suite 2

Bennington, VT 05201


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Transitioning to Adulthood


Report to Congress: Young Adults and Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder Transitioning to Adulthood

A new Report to Congress compiled by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) finds there is a critical need for research and better coordinated services targeted to youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who are transitioning to adulthood. In anApril 2017 blog, we noted that about 50,000 youth with ASD turn 18 each year, with about 450,000 total aged 16-24 years old living in the United States today. A major finding of the report is that there are very few federal resources that specifically target youth and young adults with ASD transitioning to adulthood. A recent portfolio analysis from the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) also found that issues related to transition age youth and adults comprised only 2 percent of all autism research funding, both federal and private, in 2015. To learn more about the need for more resources for those with Autism, view the full report.

College Steps at Lyndon State College is excited to welcome 6 new mentors to our program.


College Steps at Lyndon State College is excited to welcome 6 new mentors to our program.


College Steps offers students the support of our peer mentor network. Peer mentors are there to lend a hand and help College Steps students feel more comfortable as they navigate the college social network. Peer mentors are carefully selected, trained, and closely supervised by College Steps’ professional staff


“I think its great having a mentor... They have experience on campus so they can show you the ropes. I feel good interacting with other people instead of just being on my own. Without the support it would be tough. College Steps helped to boost my confidence a lot.” 


New Think College Website

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For the last 18 months, members of Think College staff, the ICI Marketing and Communications (MAC) team, and numerous others, have been working on this complete overhaul. The outcome is a cleaner look, a landing page that is more current and easier to navigate, and some new features, as well!


"I'm so proud of this new site," said Cate Weir, Think College's project director. "It looks fantastic, and it's so much easier for people to find what they're looking for."


Users will continue to find a wide range of publications and other resources, a large library of archived webinars, a comprehensive list of current college programs, as well as an improved TPSID only portal, our new Innovation Exchange, and information from our new Affinity Groups.


We appreciate your support and hope you are able to utilize this site in your work and also recommend it to others. 

Autism Speaks DC Walk

Please consider participation in the Autism Speaks DC Walk on Saturday, October 7 at the JFK Hockey Field on the National Mall.  There are many different levels and forms of participation, as follows:


  • Form a team—I am hoping that you will consider forming a team of walkers who raise funds individually and as a group.  This year, the incentive at the $150 level is a specially-designed Tommy Hilfiger t-shirt (he is on our national board!).  All you need to do is register a team captain at and then recruit others to register on your team.  Everyone gets a personal web page to personalize and use to send out emails…very easy!
  • Promote the walk—Please help us spread the word about the walk.  We want to reach parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, colleagues, neighbors, acquaintances…everyone who loves and cares for people with autism and their families.  You can post our flyers, send out an announcement in your newsletter, or ask for a speaker to come from Autism Speaks for a “Lunch and Learn” program.  

Autism Speaks is the world’s leading science and advocacy organization, and our mission is to enhance lives today and accelerate a spectrum of solutions for tomorrow.  In the next decade, we have aggressive objectives including improving the transition to adulthood, being a catalyst for research breakthroughs, and increasing global understanding & acceptance of autism.

The Walk is central to us achieving our objectives.  It is our signature event, raising more than 50% of the revenue we need each year.   This year’s walk will be sensory-friendly.  Instead of clapping and shouting, we will shake pom-poms.  Our finish line will be bubbles.  This will truly be a place where families will feel comfortable bringing their children.

Please feel free to contact me by email at  or by calling 202.510.7533 if you have any questions.

Thank you for your consideration and support.  I hope to see you at the Walk!

Webinar and Information to Share

College Steps participated in a webinar hosted by the Arc of Northern Virginia. Together with College Steps, several other organizations and agencies shared information about their services. Please enjoy the audio recording and attached information we've shared. There are exciting developments and opportunities in the world of accessible post secondary education!

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College Steps Graduates at Johnson State College

Three students completed the College Steps certificate program at Johnson State College this year. It was an especially exciting ceremony, as Bernie Sanders was the commencement speaker.

Pictured is Tyler Enman.  His focus at JSC was math and music and he wants to work with youth as a tutor or in after school programs.  He completed his internship with the DREAM program which mentors local youth living within affordable housing communities.  He was an active member of the Bad Integers math club, the JSC Chess Club, the Humans vs. Zombies club, the MAGIC: The Gathering Club, the Dungeons and Dragons club, and the Living for Giving Club... he was very active socially!


The other gentleman is Calvin Raymond.  Calvin focused on the fine arts and hopes to be a chef some day.  He completed his internship with Sodexo our campus food provider (see attached picture).  Near the end of his internship he was offered employment in the kitchen and is now working 25 hours a week and is moving towards full time employment with them.


Maleia Wentworth focused on communication (verbal and written) and completed her internship at Stowe Mountain Adventure Center in the kitchen.  She now works at Stowe Mountain Lodge and her internship has given her the opportunity to take on other positions within the resort that are more aligned with her interests (cooking and working with kids).  


The last 3 pictures are of those students with mentors at our small College Steps ceremony where the students present to family and friends on why they think they've earned their certificate.