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AWARE Ink Newsletter

Student to achieve computer science degree with help of AWARE case manager

Updated: Mar 1, 2021

Hi everyone, meet Gene!

With the help of his AWARE case manager and parents, Gene’s been working hard to go to school. Come this spring, the 28 year old will be graduating with an associate’s degree in computer science from Missoula College – University of Montana.

We’re so proud of the work he has been doing!

Gene decided to go to college because he is hoping to open doors to a more professional line of work. He’s gone through several jobs that haven’t quite worked, including janitorial services. Already interested and experienced in technology as an avid gamer, computer science seemed to be a good fit.

So for the last four years, he’s been going to class four days a week. He attended class at the college with his dad up until the pandemic hit last spring. Each day, his 70-year-old dad, Gordon, drove him to school and sat in class with him as a support. Now instead, they attend class online and do homework together every day.

“Gene’s worked really, really hard and has kept up with it,” Gordon said.

Gordon says Gene has relied on a core team to help him get through college. He’s had help from several groups that support people with disabilities.

Brianna Pena, AWARE service administrator and case manager, has guided Gene on his journey by introducing him to the organizations that best help him meet his goals.

AWARE case managers help those we serve become connected to services that best fit their needs. AWARE case managers coordinate community resources, monitor and follow up with activities, and advocate as necessary.

For example, Brianna connected Gene with Montana Vocational Rehabilitation services. The professionals there helped him apply for funds to pay for tuition.

She also went with Gene to student disability services at University of Montana where they helped Gene make plans to successfully navigate the university system. In addition, she attended orientation with Gene and his parents, which also included the opportunity to shadow a class.

Pictured above Gene (left) and Brianna Pena

“As Gene’s case manager, I am proud to see him succeeding,” Brianna said.

Both Gene and Gordon reflected on the time they spent during the last four years going to school. They both hope they’ve set good example for others who also want to get a college degree.

“[We want people to say that] if Gene can do it, I can do it,” Gordon said.

“I want to be a beacon of light for them,” Gene said.

Gene will be graduating with a 3.0 GPA. He plans on continuing his college career by attending the University of Montana to pursue his bachelor’s degree.

“The next step is to celebrate,” Brianna said.

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