By Jennifer Kolarik
Career Coordinator, CIP Brevard
In support of Autism Awareness Month this April, staff and students from the College Internship Program- Brevard Center visited Melbourne Central Catholic (MCC) high school on April 14th to present a workshop to students with autism spectrum disorders and learning differences. Staff and students discussed what to expect after high school and shared tips to start preparing now for success in college, careers, and independent living.
Staff presenters included Anthony Milla, Life Skills Coordinator; Ryan Therriault, Academic Coordinator; Jennifer Kolarik, Career Coordinator; and Moultrie Woodall, Tutor and Instructor. Moultrie was a student at the Brevard Center for 3 years before joining the CIP team as a staff member. He is now tutoring CIP students as well as teaching a morning class where he helps students reframe their thoughts and set a positive tone for the rest of their day.
Based on his own experiences, Moultrie encouraged the students to approach life with cognitive flexibility. He stated “You never know where you will end up. Most people do not have the same career that they imagined they would when they were in high school. So being flexible keeps you open to new opportunities and possibilities.”
Jennifer Kolarik, CIP Brevard’s Career Coordinator, encouraged students to make their health a top priority. Often, one might think about experience, education, and preparing for job searches when preparing for work success… but making sure to maintain one’s health by getting the right amount of sleep, taking medications reliably, etc. is critical to one’s work dependability and performance.
In addition, three Brevard Center students (Thea, Megan and Alex) answered questions from the MCC students about their own college and career experiences. Some of the high school students were curious about living in dorms or houses with roommates. Megan recommended living in a single dorm room if that option is available and said that a student can get a doctor’s note if there is a medical reason (such as a sleep disorder) that would make a single room important for one’s health. MCC students also asked whether college professors really care about class attendance. Megan explained that colleges like Eastern Florida State College have an automatic withdrawal policy if a student misses more than 15% of the required classes and activities… so attendance can be very important. She recommended that students always check on the attendance policy. Thea also recommended that college students with disabilities apply for accommodations (such as extra test time) right from the beginning. College students must apply for accommodations when they begin college. They are not automatic based on high school. Both girls recommended checking in with a college’s office for students with disabilities for helpful supports.
Lastly, Moultrie Woodall also spoke about misconceptions regarding failure and success. “Failure is not something to be afraid of. Rather than focusing solely on our successes, we should learn to fail better… that is, to take each life experience as a learning opportunity!”