College fair upcoming for students with disabilities

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

Students with disabilities are about to get some help in navigating the waters of post-secondary education.

The Henry County Interagency Transition Planning Council will host a college fair Jan. 28 from 6-8 p.m., in the Academy of Advanced Studies at Henry County High School, 401 E. Tomlinson St., in McDonough. The event is geared toward college-bound students who have individualized education programs.

Shrika Montgomery, a certified rehabilitation counselor, will be one of the presenters at this year’s college fair. Special photo

Beth Pieczynski works as a community-based vocational instructor for Henry County Schools and oversees the college fair, which is held in Henry every two years. She says the fair helps to ease the transition from high school to college or trade school for students, including many who aren’t accustomed to making such a transition on their own.

“Many of our young adults with disabilities need to be prepared to transition from high school into college or training programs smoothly with greater independence,” says Pieczynski. “

“In high school, they’re provided with a lot of support from their teachers and staff. But when they move into a post-secondary institution, they’re responsible for handling more things on their own in order to be successful.”

About 75 people participated when Henry County held its most recent college fair for students with disabilities two years ago. Pieczynski adds that the event will help students to better understand what’s expected of them in college or trade school, as well as how to communicate with their professors to get the guidance they need.

During the college fair, a representative from Georgia State University will give a PowerPoint presentation on the differences between high school and college and how students with disabilities can thrive in college. The event will also feature a panel of representatives from the following colleges: Gordon State College, Clayton State College and University, Gallaudet University, Georgia Perimeter College, Reinhardt University, Southern Crescent Technical College, and the Georgia Tech Inclusive Post-Secondary Academy.

Shrika Montgomery, certified rehabilitation counselor for the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency’s office in College Park, which serves Clayton, Fayette, and Henry counties as well as south Fulton County will be among the presenters for this year’s college fair, her third one in Henry. The event, she says, is intended to address the needs of students with cognitive disabilities including autism, attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, as well as some physical disabilities.

Montgomery says the college fair will help students with disabilities, as well as their parents, adjust to the prospect of higher education.

“I think what we give at this college fair is a little bit more of a reality check,” says Montgomery. “When they’re in high school, they’re under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which gives children with disabilities the opportunity for a free and appropriate education. This changes when they go to college. Post-secondary institutions are under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which more or less makes it where they have to have an accessible education. Teachers aren’t going to hold your hand and make sure you can get through the process. That’s a big shock for students and parents. We really want students and parents to come. Before, it was parents advocating for the students. Now, the students have to advocate for themselves.”

To RSVP for the college fair, e-mail Beth Pieczynski, at us or call 770-957-8086 ext. 568.