4 cadets with disabilities graduate from Chesterfield ‘Growth Through Opportunity’ program

Growth Through Opportunity graduation

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Four cadets from Chesterfield graduated from the “Growth through opportunity program” that’s designed to help young adults with autism, down syndrome and cerebral palsy get jobs.

“I can’t say enough about this program it’s changed me tremendously,” said graduate cadet Conor “CJ” Gallagher.

One by one, as the cadets received their diploma’s, first responders reflect on the program. They say the cadets were actually the teachers as they taught them how to better understand someone with a disability.

For 16 weeks, the cadets work alongside Chesterfield sheriff’s office, fire, police and general service departments learning valuable social skills and safety certifications.

Growth through opportunity cadets and their diploma's
Growth through opportunity cadets and their diploma's

“We put them in the game of life and partner them with all of these first responders right here that up lift them and put them to the test,” founder of Growth Through Opportunity, Travis Akins, said. “We really build them up and we supply them with a lot of confidence and a lot of hope that they never seen before."

“I’m more positive, I have more energy, I feel like people actually except me,” Gallagher said.

And now with this new boost of confidence, these cadets say they’re ready to take on the world.

“I would recommend this program to any kid who has a disability because their lives will change with in this program,” Gallagher said.

This academy class is the first cadet class to ever graduate and receive diplomas from the new program in Chesterfield.

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