ELIZABETH – With its mission of enabling people with disabilities and at-risk youth to continually advance toward fulfilled and independent living within the community, Community Access Unlimited (CAU) recently celebrated the achievements of a number of its members who made noted progress during the year.
CAU provides support programs and services to people with disabilities and at-risk youth to enable them to live independently in the community, in areas including housing, vocational and life-skills training, education, advocacy and recreation.
Each year members and staff celebrate the success of these programs by honoring the accomplishments of CAU’s members with disabilities at Performance Recognition Night and its youth members at Youth Achievement Night.
Eleven members with disabilities were honored at Performance Recognition Night for achieving set goals designed to strengthen their independent living skills. Winners are selected based on advancements made during the year in categories that include behavioral, physical and social skills and advocacy.
“To some members, Performance Recognition Night motivates them to target a goal they would like to achieve or obstacle they would like to overcome,” said Sheila Yigitkurt, director of residential services at CAU. “Other members enjoy the night because they like to share in the success of their friends, housemates and/or significant others. And of course to those few that win an award, it acknowledges a sense of pride and a realization that they have a community that supports and recognizes their dreams.”
Thirty-two CAU youth members were honored at Youth Achievement Night. Categories ranged from Most Likely to Succeed and the Valedictorian Award for academics to the Wall Street Award for budgeting and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award for advocacy.
Melissa Perkins is a part-time counselor at CAU who served as the keynote speaker for the event. She spent several years in the child welfare system and rose from an environment of domestic violence and drug addiction to become a college graduate and business system manager at Cosco Container Lines America.
“Don’t let your history hold you hostage to your circumstances,” she told the youth members in attendance. “Embrace the truth of your greatness. It doesn’t matter where you started. It only matters where you finish.”
“At CAU we provide our members with access to programs that help them achieve their goals of living independently within the community,” said Sid Blanchard, executive director of the agency. “Unlike any other organization, we offer a total continuum of care that ensures they receive support in every aspect of their lives. When they succeed it is a reflection of not only their hard work but the success of our programs, as well.”
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