Chapel Haven boasts a growing number of students who are seeking higher education and succeeding, often to the surprise of their families. For young adults who have often had a difficult time in the mainstream, college has raised the bar and these young adults are going for it. Chapel Haven provides supports and staffing to help make college more successful.

Ariana Habib, 24, is a student in Chapel Haven’s Asperger’s Syndrome Adult Transition Program, but she’s also a sophomore at Southern Connecticut State University with the same problems that most other college students in the world face. “It’s difficult to manage my time,” Ariana said. “I shouldn’t have been as socially active as I was.”

Ariana gets good grades, but she’s also quite the social butterfly who enjoys watching the Southern Idol singing competition, attending Folio readings — that’s the literary and poetry magazine of Southern — where she has read poetry and short stories and joining clubs. She also finds time to volunteer one day a week at New Haven Reads, sorting books and placing book orders for Cornell Scott Hill Health Center and the Books in the Park program. Of her intention to focus more on her studies, rather than the “events” she likes so much, Ariana said, “This time I’m going to tone it down.”

Brent Levy, 23 of Chapel Haven West is a third semester student at Pima Community College in a general studies program with a concentration in applied art. Rebekah Miranda, supervisor of Chapel Haven West and Brent’s point staff, said Brent’s parents never thought he could pass a math test and he’s now taking intermediate algebra. “I’m really proud of Brent,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of growth in him since he began college. He’s much more mature. He’s branched out more. I think that attracts other people to be friends with him.”

In his artwork, Brent, who has a knack for colors when applying makeup, works with a lot of different mediums, including, charcoal, pencil, paint and clay. In the academic arena, he’s really enjoyed psychology. “I really liked the teacher,” Brent said. “He wasn’t stiff and formal, he’s relaxed.”

Brent said he knew college would be different than high school and there’s a lot he loves about this new level of learning. “I met a lot of friends and I’m expanding my knowledge,” he said. Brent and his new friends hang out, watch movies, and eat together. Brent even schedules his math tutor and keeps on top of homework and studying, exceeding his parents’ expectations, Miranda said. “It makes me really feel good I can do it,” said Brent, who recently got his drivers’ license.

Sarah Allen, who is graduating this spring from Chapel Haven’s Asperger Syndrome Adult Transition program, is doing well at Gateway Community College, where she is studying early childhood education. Her favorite part of college is learning about child care. The hardest thing is English class. She enjoys socializing in the student lounge and has enjoyed special events like a Mardi Gras buffet. Her advice to students considering college? “Get help, either in the Disability Resource Center or the writing Center.”

Jacob Shore, 21, who is also in the ASAT program at Chapel Haven, had some growing pains his first semester at Gateway Community College, but he’s aware of his missteps and prepared to change some of his approaches next semester. He took composition, pre-algebra and psychology his first semester.

On composition, he said it wasn’t the kind of writing he was used to.

“It’s great to learn how to do that, but I’d much rather write stuff with my head in the clouds. Like fan fiction,” Jacob said. In his fan fiction writing Jacob says he likes to connect everything he sees in video games, television, comic books and create his own fantasy. “I notice I’ve made a pretty good impression on some people,” he said, referring to Gateway.

Jacob added that he hasn’t really shown them at the school all he knows.

Jacob said he knows he has to work on raising his hand to talk in class rather than blurting out a question or answer in an effort to get his thoughts across. “I’m still figuring that out,” he said.

ASAT student Frank Dinger III, more commonly known as “Tripp,” will become a full-time industrial design student this fall at the University of Bridgeport, with an eye toward becoming a toy designer. Tripp, 29, said he’s made past attempts at college without success, but believes this time he’ll be able to succeed because he has support staff from Chapel Haven behind him. “It should go well,” Tripp said. “They’ll help me a lot with time management and help me to keep on top of things and on top of assignments.” Tripp said he’s already progressed after a year in the ASAT program.

Tripp collects toys and said he loves them because they, “give people the freedom to explore” many concepts and use their imaginations.

“I like the sense of joy they bring to people,” he said. While he hopes to follow his passion and design toys for a living, Tripp is practical and said he’s fully prepared to broaden his design area when it comes time to search for a job.

Maria Rivera, also an ASAT student, is taking classes at Southern Connecticut State University in hopes of eventually earning a computer programming degree. “It’s good so far,” she said, adding the best part is, “meeting people and learning in general.” The most unpleasant aspects of college for Rivera: “homework and staying awake in the morning.”

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