Dayton student first for dual enrollment in independent living program
Jesse Rojas, a Dayton High School and college student with disabilities, is the first student in Northern Nevada to be dual-enrolled as part of a high school and the Path to Independence (P2I), formerly Think College, a two-year program at the University of Nevada, Reno.
P2I is designed to give students with intellectual disabilities a college experience and prepare them for life as independent adults. The program engages in Person Centered Planning (PCP) and Students Transitioning to Adult Roles (STAR) in which students, their family and the program discuss their plan of action for academic enrichment, independent living, self-determination, campus and community engagement and career development and employment. P2I structures the program to enable students to enroll in UNR college courses with typical peers. Participants are encouraged to become active members in the university community. In addition, the students prepare for integrated, competitive employment and are exposed to community services that will lead to the desired independent living outcomes.
Rojas, a native of Dayton, has made his opportunity at UNR a possibility with his determination to be on campus Monday through Friday every week. In the morning, his mother drives him to Carson City where he catches the RTC bus to Reno and then to UNR. Rojas spends more than three and a half hours in his commute every day in order to be a part of the program on campus.
As the first dual-enrollment student, Rojas is gearing up for graduation from his college program next week. It’s the goal of Lyon County School District Special Services to assure every student can learn and achieve the skills necessary to be proficient in academic, vocation and social disciplines. Through the collaboration of LCSD and UNR’s P2I program, Rojas has expanded and capitalized on experiences and learning opportunities available to individuals with disabilities, and he has made great strides in his path to independence while helping others realize they can do it, too. Currently, the program has two other LCSD students — one in her first year and a second beginning in the fall.
“Jesse has opened doors and my eyes to the possibilities of students with disabilities — he’s blown me away,” Marva Cleven, LCSD director of Special Services, said. “I am so proud of him and his accomplishments. His self-determination, self-advocacy and advocacy for others is contagious and this encourages me every day to unlock and open doors for our students in Lyon County. Jesse has done the hard work to get to where he is today and never takes opportunities presented to him for granted. I have learned so much from Jesse through his journey the past two years and hope he truly knows the positive impact he has had on my life and my career as a special educator and administrator.”
Rojas has been employed in UNR’s College of Education as part of the AmeriCorps VISTA program. VISTA originated with President John F. Kennedy as a program designed to alleviate poverty and was incorporated into AmeriCorps in 1993. AmeriCorps is a network of national services programs aimed at improving lives and fostering civic engagement where members bring their passion and perserverance to where the need is greatest. Members can be employed from three months to a year. Rojas has committed himself to AmeriCorps for the past semester and will continue with AmeriCorps VISTA for the following year after his graduation.
On May 9, LCSD presented a scholarship check to Rojas
“You make LCSD and myself so proud, Jesse,” LCSD Superintendent Wayne Workman said as he presented the check to Rojas. “You are an inspiration to the students to come after you and we can’t wait to see what you do.”
“Thank you for everything and thank you for believing in me,” Rojas said. “I won’t disappoint you.”
Rojas also has served on the State Special Education Advisory Committee where he has been a representative and advocate for his peers.