As part of Autism Awareness Month, Texas Tech Today is highlighting the work done by Texas Tech University’s Burkhart Transition Academy.
The Burkhart Transition Academy is part of the College of Education’s Burkhart Center for Autism Education & Research. It provides postsecondary educational strength-based assessment to aid people with autism-spectrum disorder (ASD) transition to postsecondary higher education and vocational settings. Classes for young adults with ASD having completed high school meet five days per week to teach life, job and social skills.
Several academy graduates earn jobs on and off campus, thanks to partnerships with businesses in the Lubbock community. Throughout the month, we will highlight some of the students who benefit from these partnerships.
After her six-month internship, Spencer Ragland advanced to full-time employee at the Mildred and Shirley L. Garrison Geriatric Education and Care Center. A year later, she still is employed at the center and works in the activities department.
Ragland is a 2013 graduate of the Burkhart Transition Academy and credits the program for assisting her with the skills needed to perform her daily tasks at work. The academy helps students with autism-spectrum disorder transition into higher education, vocational or other settings.
“It has helped me speak more clearly to people,” Ragland said. “It’s helped me with my motor and independent skills.”
Jasmine Saenz has been a store associate at Goodwill since 2009. She interacts with customers, hangs clothes and organizes the store daily.
During Jasmine’s spare time, she likes to sing, hang out with friends at the Stangel/Murdough dining hall and watch movies. She thanks the Burkhart Transition Academy for providing her with various opportunities to get involved.
“The Burkhart Center helped me in a lot of ways,” Jasmine said. “I made new friends, learned how to do things on my own and now I work at a place I love.”
C.J. Casas, an employee at Texas Tech University’s physical plant garage, shines the windows and mirrors of Texas Tech’s fleet of 465 vehicles.
Washing a car could be considered a dreaded task for some, but for C.J. Casas it’s a job he takes pride in.
“My job is to make sure all the fans are clean from inside and outside and the windows,” C.J. said. “I have always liked it and keep up good work.”
As a graduate from the Burkhart Transition Academy, C.J. was referred by one of the staff members who would bring the academy’s van to the garage for services. The academy helps students with autism-spectrum disorder transition into higher education, vocational or other settings.
Time stops for no one when Karlie Watts is at work, which perhaps is one of the reasons she’s excelled at her job over the past seven years.
Karlie, a food service worker in the Student Union Building (SUB), frequently is seen cleaning and putting away trays.
The Albuquerque native graduated from the Burkhart Transition Academy in 2010, which she credits for teaching her social skills. The transition academy provides educational opportunities for people who are on the autism spectrum.
“It can be really hard to be social, but the Burkhart Center taught me how to be social and interact with people,” Karlie said. “It helped me do well at my job, and I love working at the SUB.”