Supported by Devereux, Erin Clemens celebrates graduation from Delaware County Community College
When Erin Clemens first walked into the Delaware County Community College (DCCC) bookstore in 2015 and spotted a lanyard with the Autism Awareness Ribbon puzzle piece theme, she knew – at that moment – she was ready for college, and that her college of choice could accommodate her needs.
Clemens, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome when she was 15 and receives services through Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Pennsylvania, studied early childhood education at DCCC, and graduated in May with a Child Development Associate, Certificate of Competency.
“There were times when I felt frustrated, and there were other times when I felt extremely proud of myself. I guess it’s just like life,” said Clemens. “I really enjoyed my time at DCCC because the professors I had were different. They understood me and my needs.”
Learning valuable life lessons
While pursuing her certificate was not always easy, Clemens remained focused on her schoolwork and never gave up when faced with challenges.
“All of my friends, family, teachers and staff – everyone – will agree: I stress myself out over my schoolwork,” noted Clemens, who took one class at a time to ensure she would not become overwhelmed. “Every class, I would freak out over how well (or how poorly) I might be doing, and every time, I’d get a wonderful grade. People would say, ‘This always happens. Why do you worry so much?’ I’d respond, ‘It’s part of the process.’ I think a little perfectionist in me had to worry about each class, just to keep myself in line. But I was doing fine. I’ve learned I can trust myself more because of my experience taking and successfully conquering classes at DCCC.”
Celebrating success; setting sights on the future
Clemens, who volunteers at the Brandywine Valley SPCA, hopes to transfer the skills she learned at DCCC into a career working with animals.
“I really love working with dogs, so I plan to spend more time volunteering and studying dog training,” Clemens explained. “Eventually, I hope to help train service dogs for people like me on the autism spectrum. That way, I will not only be working with dogs, but I would be helping people, too.”
Clemens participates in Devereux Pennsylvania’s Community Adult Autism Partnership Program (CAAPP), which provides individualized and innovative community-based support services for adults with autism spectrum disorders and other disabilities.
Clemens credits the CAAPP program with helping her achieve her goals and dreams.
“Without Devereux, I’d still be living at home with my parents,” Clemens shared. “Devereux has helped me to not only live independently, but also begin to thrive. Staff members sat with me for countless hours in college classes, helped me fill out forms, and spoke with professors and other people from the college. I think the biggest thing they have done is that they have helped me become more of who I really want to be.”
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