David lives in the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina. During middle school and high school, David’s school transition plan involved working for part of each school day. He tried working in a hospital setting for a short time in high school; however, it ended badly because the school system did not involve support to ensure that he was learning his job correctly. When David was about to leave high school, his transition teacher had identified a position for him at a sheltered workshop close to his community. He worked there for about one year, and during that year he gained weight and lost social skills, verbal skills, and self-confidence. Around this time, David’s mom read about a new two-year program at Western Carolina University (WCU), about 50 miles from their home. She and David talked about it, and decided, even though he’d never lived away from home, he would try it. Within a few months, David was living in a dorm with other college students, attending classes he selected, and living up to expectations of the program, including participating in campus activities. He learned to set an alarm and to be at class on time. He learned to navigate campus and meet with friends and professors when he was expected to be there. At WCU, David made friends in both the disability community and the non-disabled community, gained self-confidence, and the ability to advocate for himself.
Getting ready for the world of work was a big part of David’s college experience, as it is for any college student. While enrolled at WCU, David got a part-time job with Graham County’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS). Much like his fellow classmates, David’s vision for his adult life began to take shape. He decided that he wanted to eventually build a log cabin, own a red pick-up truck and a hound dog, and spend time with family and friends. While at the local EMS service, David proved himself as a valuable employee. When graduation came around, he was offered a permanent position with the service. David continues to works at the EMS service, lives in his own apartment, and because of technology, has very limited need for support from staff. David was just given a raise and he is making $10 per hour. He is close to living his dream; he now owns his own pick-up truck and is saving money for a down payment on a log cabin. David’s mom, the county’s CPA/Chief Financial Officer, estimates that David’s chosen lifestyle has saved the federal and state governments $100,000 per year combined.