Our 10th graduating class at Chapel Haven West

Matthew Margolis recalls that he was a “struggling student” at the University of Wisconsin Whitewater before he enrolled at Chapel Haven West.

“I was known for not doing my assignments or even just caring in general,” he said. “At first, the transition to Chapel Haven West left me extremely hesitant. I was glued to my phone all the time and while that problem still remains, I have come a long way in general.”

Matthew, who is now 21, and originally from Minnesota, is a member of the Chapel Haven West Class of 2019, whose families, friends and staff will gather this Saturday at 10:30 a.m. in a commencement ceremony at the University of Arizona to celebrate their achievements. The six grads are celebrating completion of Chapel Haven West’s comprehensive, two-year program targeted precisely to the struggles that young adults on the autism spectrum face.

“My future moving forward will involve living in the community with my new roommate Alex (another Chapel Haven West grad) and attending Pima Community College,” Matthew said. “For the next two years, I’ll be pursuing a digital arts career. I am extra-thankful for what I’ve learned at Chapel Haven West, and how it will help me be successful this time.”

The Chapel Haven West Class of 2019 created a great “rap” video that summarizes all that they have learned: https://youtu.be/ccRkfoYRq68

The latest figure from the Centers for Disease Control’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) reports that 1 in 59 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder – up 14% from 2016.
While the students have crafted graduation speeches looking toward their future success, the ability to grow into adulthood while dealing with the challenges of autism can’t be underestimated.

Says Jacob West, another soon-to-be grad, “We, the graduating class of Chapel Haven West 2019, are the men in the arena. We have fought and struggled and tried, and after all of our work here we have emerged victorious and are now ready to graduate, move into the community and start getting jobs and living our lives.”

Austin Hendrikse, an upcoming grad, lists all that he has gained: “I’ve learned so many things at CHW. I learned self-advocacy, and how to stick up for myself so that I could get out of bad situations with other people, and be a better person. I learned how to manage and spend my money wisely. I learned how to budget as an independent person, by knowing the difference between what I need and what I want when budgeting my money. I learned self-determination, and how to talk to my friends, teachers, and work supervisors about what I didn’t understand, or how to do a certain task that I have never done before. Finally, at CHW I learned how to be more social and outgoing by practicing social skills with CHW peers, staff, and mentors from mentor night.”

Congrats to our grads, we are so proud of you! To learn more about Chapel Haven West, inquire at mailto:admission@chapelhaven.org

About Chapel Haven West: Building on decades of experience from their original program in New Haven, Connecticut, Chapel Haven West opened in 2008 in Tucson, AZ and provides transition skills and lifelong supports for adults 18+ with mild developmental disabilities and those on the autism spectrum. The program is a satellite of Chapel Haven, Inc., founded in 1972 by parents and dedicated to providing lifelong supports for adults with cognitive and social disabilities. Chapel Haven West focuses in four key areas: independent living, self-determination, college/vocation supports, and social communication skills. Students live in an apartment complex within walking distance to the University of Arizona, and participate in coursework held in shared class space on the University campus. They learn apartment management skills along with cooking, budgeting, grocery shopping and doing laundry. The program puts a special focus on the teaching of social communicative competency and all students attend college-level classes in social communication at the University of Arizona. Upon graduation, students often move into the Tucson community and receive ongoing individualized supports from Chapel Haven West.