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Press Release for Friday, October 31, 2008

UNF Fine Arts Center Receives 2008 Corporate Disabilities Employment Award

Joanna Norris, Assistant Director
Department of Media Relations and Events
(904) 620-2102

The Fine Arts Center at the University of North Florida was recently presented the 2008 Corporate Disabilities Employment Award in the large employer category by The Arc Jacksonville at the 17th annual Dinner with Bill event held on October 22.

The Corporate Disabilities Employment Award recognizes outstanding efforts by the corporate community to employ people with disabilities. Dinner with Bill is designed to increase awareness of the importance and benefits of hiring people with disabilities, raising $100,000 to date this year for The Arc Jacksonville.

UNF’s Fine Arts Center currently employs six people with developmental disabilities who are all UNF students as part of the On Campus Transition Program (OCT). The students work as ushers for events held at the Fine Arts Center and have been employed for about one year.

“We are so proud to receive this recognition from The Arc Jacksonville, to be able to provide an opportunity to people with developmental disabilities to learn valuable social and life skills, and to be able to expose them to the wonders of working in a theater setting,” said Joseph Harris, interim executive director of the Fine Arts Center at UNF. “They perform a valuable service and they are constantly in the public eye providing great customer service to our patrons.”

The OCT Program offers students with developmental disabilities the opportunity to experience college life, participate in campus activities, audit college classes and be mentored by fellow UNF students. The program has been in place at UNF since the spring of 2007.

Through exposure to their non-disabled peers, OCT students can gain valuable life-enhancing skills in the areas of finance, scheduling, transportation and more. Students are given the opportunity to audit classes of their choice and participate in various internships or jobs that meet their capabilities, skills and interests.

The OCT Program believes that independence can’t be learned from a textbook but needs to be learned through experiential experiences. As a result, the Residential Program has recently been added. Students live in off-campus housing in four bedroom/four bathroom apartments, where a UNF student or recent graduate acts as a live-in support/mentor, called a Housing Assistant.

OCT students are being given the opportunity to engage in the experience of other college students, learning how to live with their peers independently from home. Students are receiving training and skills that will help them to live independently in the community with minimal supports. In the fall of 2009, the OCT Residential Program will also expand to include residence halls on the UNF campus as a housing option.

Funding for the OCT Program is provided through The Arc Jacksonville, which provides the OCT staff, while UNF provides the space for the program on campus.

Individuals who are at least 18 with a developmental disability and have completed high school course work are eligible to participate in the OCT Program at UNF. Additional requirements include the ability to travel independently, eligibility for SSI/SSDI, personal means of transportation and previous community work experience (volunteer or paid).

For more information about the OCT Program, call (904) 620-3890.