This past year, Auburn’s EAGLES program, a comprehensive transition program for students with intellectual disabilities, graduated its first class of students.
Josh Greiner, Anna Moates and Bradley Basden all make up the first graduating class, and while they all went through the same program, they each have different things that they want to accomplish after graduation.
“I would like to be famous for singing and songwriting, but I would also like to be a public speaker too,” Moates said. “I love singing and dancing [with] AU Singers, I really enjoy listening to my music, doing YouTube and writing songs and reading.”
Moates, from South Georgia, comes from a long line of Auburn graduates, including her older sisters, father and grandfather, who received a doctorate from Auburn. For her, following in the footsteps of her family is something that makes her proud.
“I have just so many favorite moments with my EAGLES family, like going to football games, basketball games and, most of all, when a lot of them showed up as [a] group to cheer for me at my AU Singers performances,” Moates said. “Auburn is my home, and everybody in EAGLES has always been like my family.”
EAGLES, or Education to Accomplish Growth in Life Experiences for Success, can either be a two-year or a four-year program for students. While completion of the program does not award a degree to graduates, the program aims to focus on skills that can be applied after graduation to a job or form of employment.
The skills that the program focuses on include academic enrichment, personal and social skills, and integrated work experience, as well as the health and wellness of the students. According to their website, the program operates in order to enable their students to be contributing members of society, both now and in the future.
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Greiner, from Cumming, Georgia, came to Auburn to learn how to live independently, having many memorable experiences along the way.
“My favorite moment was getting to be on the football field and be announced as an EAGLES student,” Greiner said. “Another favorite [moment] is getting to be in the United Sound band and to play with the campus band. I’m also excited to be a level one WING this year.”
For Greiner, having to move to remote instruction after spring break was difficult, but manageable.
“It was hard because we weren’t on the same schedule, and my family was there so it was harder to stay on track,” Greiner said. “They would do their thing, and I would try to do mine. It was hard being with friends, and basketball was cancelled.”
Moates said she also struggled with the transition to remote instruction, but was happy to see her friends and family at home.
“It was definitely rough for me to move to Zoom so suddenly because I missed all my friends and I was already back at home,” Moates said. “Even though I love Auburn, I have always been a Georgia girl at heart; that’s where I’ve always lived, so it was amazing to have such a long break too.”
According to the website, depending on the level of the program completed, graduates earn different certificates. Upon completion of the two-year program, graduates will receive a Career Readiness Certificate, while graduates of the four-year program will receive an Independent Living Readiness Certificate. Both certificates are endorsed by Auburn University.
While in the EAGLES program, students follow a curriculum similar to that of a traditional college student across campus. The curriculum includes Auburn University credit-bearing courses, as well as program specific courses that each focus on different aspects of life.
In the first year spring semester curriculum, students would take COMP 1000 Personal Computer Applications, a course offered through Auburn, as well as EAGL 1103 Employment Education, a program specific course. The course load each semester can range anywhere from 13 to 21 hours.
For Bradley Basden, being from Auburn and seeing his family graduate made the decision to come to Auburn for college easy.
“My experience as an EAGLES student was good. My favorite thing was getting to meet new people and make new friends,” Basden said. “One of my favorite moments was getting to sit in the student section at Auburn football games with my friends.”
Basden hopes to work at a radio station after graduation, and currently has a radio show on WEGL on Mondays from 3–4 p.m. While he’s excited about graduating, Basden wishes that it could have been in person; as well as the end to the spring semester.
“I had a liver transplant in December 2019 so I was not able to live in the dorm in the spring,” Basden said. “I wish we could have had graduation. I am now a fourth generation Auburn graduate like my sisters.”
The EAGLES program is unique in the state, in that it is the first post-secondary program for students with intellectual disabilities in Alabama to receive this designation, according to their website, joining a select group of other postsecondary institutions with comprehensive training programs across the country.
While many CTPs have a focus on inclusion within the larger campus community, Auburn’s EAGLES program has emphasized the inclusion of their students with other students without intellectual disabilities.
“The CTP status also recognizes that EAGLES has met an advising and curriculum structure and that at least 50% of the program time is with other students without intellectual disabilities,” their website reads. “However, Auburn exceeds the latter requirement with approximately 95% of the EAGLES program time spent with students without intellectual disabilities, with the possibility of 100% inclusion.”
Despite an abnormal ending to their time at Auburn, Basden, Moates and Greiner remain excited about what the future holds for them.
“I am excited to be the first one to graduate from the EAGLES program,” Greiner said. “I want to work hard at my job and hopefully keep it after I finish school.”
For Moates, her experience with EAGLES at Auburn couldn’t have been better.
“I definitely am excited about graduating from EAGLES and about what my future has to offer,” Moates said. “My EAGLES experience has definitely been such a dream true for me; I really couldn’t be a part of anything better.”
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