Talon News - Good Local News

By Rashel Korte


Leplatt supports her students


March 10, 2017

Many people spend their entire lives trying to discover their passions and dreams and tryin to turn them into a reality. Disabled students at Aztec High School have Cammie Leplatt and the support of local Aztec businesses to help them accomplish their dreams.

Cammie grew up in Durango but has lived in Aztec, with her husband, the past 21 years. Originally working as a math teacher at Aztec High School, she started working as Transition Coordinator in August of 2016. She currently has 140 students she works with. Her student's disabilities range from dyslexia and ADHD, to Down Syndrome and paralysis.

A transition coordinator's duties include; helping disable students with education goals, career and job finding. In the past, coordinators have simply fulfilled the job description by trying to get their students through high school. Cammie wanted to go beyond what had been done. "I feel my job is to help others find their purpose in life and to transition into the real world," she said. She wants her students to be able to see that everyone has some sort of disability and that they can work around them and still find their niche in life. Even though her students have disabilities preventing them from doing some things, they still have abilities that they can utilize. While there are some government programs designed to help find jobs, Cammie wanted to do more than just find a job as means of survival for her students; she's trying to help her student's fulfill their passion.

Of the 140 students Cammie works with, 40 are seniors. These seniors are the ones that she is trying to find positions to shadow or intern at businesses. Unfortunately she is limited to only the Aztec area as most of the students either don't have access to a vehicle or can't drive. When Cammie first started trying to place her students and get this program going all she could think was "How can I start this?" Aztec is a small community without a large variety of businesses to choose from. Would there be enough businesses to support this program? So far her expectations have been far exceeded, with ten businesses having so far stepped up to offer internships and shadowing to her students. Twelve students have been placed so far with businesses like Elder's Greenhouse, Ruby's, Aztec Restaurant, the Step Back Inn and Aztec Schools.

Although Cammie fulfills the role of teacher, her students have been showing her some things. Like one of her students with Down Syndrome, when asked what his dream was he stood and assumed his best waiters position- hands outstretched and back straight. He wanted to carry a tray and work as a waiter. They were able to partner with Ruby's and he had the opportunity to carry a tray and work. "He was so excited, that's all he could talk about for days!" says Cammie. "They even gave him a shirt that he showed everybody." She goes on to say that "We forget how big it is to accomplish our dreams. We accomplish all these big things in everyday life and forget about the small things that mean so much." For many people, we take for granted all the little things that we have the option to do; going to college, carrying a tray, and driving a car.

Another student has made it his passion to try and give back to the community that has supported him. Michael Sillers has held three internships/jobs at Sunshine Bakery, Premier Fitness and working as a senior companion. He started working as a senior companion to try and give back to the community that has supported him. Michael volunteers to work with senior citizens to talk with them and try to meet their companion needs. Internships and shadowing are already being prepared for next year. Dominic Dufur will be interning for Dr. Lillywhite to gain hands on experience as a veterinarian.

Jeremy Orr, the Gifted Program Facilitator and Cammie Leplatt's boss is thrilled with the development of the intern program. "She has done exceptionally well with providing opportunity's to students. It's amazing the growth we have seen in this program." Not only has she done a great job providing her students with experience and helping them to fulfill goals, but she has also showed her students that having a disability doesn't make them anything less of a person. Her students can still have jobs and lives just like anyone else. In return her students have shown her and the people around them to appreciate the small things, and no matter what disability you have you still have the ability to fulfill your dreams.


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