VKC 50th Website Reflections

Here are reflections about the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center from professionals.

I was introduced to the Kennedy Center in 1975 when I was an undergraduate at Peabody College, now Vanderbilt University. It changed my life, and set me on my career path. I left as a graduate, and I came back for graduate studies. And I work in disability and I still count on the Kennedy Center every day.

Carol Westlake - Tennessee Disability Public Policy Advocate

Sarah Harvey - VKC Disability Professional

Recently a mother shared with me that over four decades ago she gave birth to a baby girl with Down syndrome. The medical staff and others strongly encouraged her to give her daughter over to an institution as it was the best option at the time. While in the hospital a social worker from the Kennedy Center discussed services and resources available to her if she chose to keep her child in her care. As a result of their conversation she decided to raise her child with the support of her family and this Center. This family is currently thriving in their community. To work somewhere that touches people’s lives on such an incredible level is an experience I am very fortunate to be part of.

Sarah Harvey - VKC Disability Professional

[The VKC] is an absolutely amazing place to work, but more importantly, people here truly help to change lives for the better. I’ve worked here in some capacity since I graduated from the Master’s of Special Education program in 2007, and I cannot think of a better place to refer families who have a loved one with a disability. In my own work, we are helping high school students with autism and their families prepare for the transition from high school, and we are also helping faith communities as they support people with disabilities to find and hold employment.

Jenny Gustafson - Special Education Alumna and VKC Disability Professional

Nina Harris - VKC Disability Professional

In my role, I assist families who have children with autism spectrum disorder. I have the opportunity each day to hear directly from families about their struggles and triumphs. Even the simplest of daily routines can be difficult for families who have children with autism. I feel lucky that families choose to share their stories with me. I also feel extremely lucky to be a part of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center where many talented researchers are trying to determine the best interventions and treatments for the families I speak with. Daily, I listen to families, validate their concerns and feelings, and hopefully offer them a service or resources to address their needs. The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center is a true asset to these families as well as to the University, the greater Nashville community, and others who are much farther away.

Nina Harris - VKC Disability Professional

As a teacher and now as Director of Special Education in Manchester City Schools, I feel very fortunate to have received training from Vanderbilt Kennedy Center TRIAD myself. It helped me better serve my students with this challenging disorder. Now as our district administrator, I strongly encourage and support training opportunities for the teachers in our school system. This year alone over 50% of our special education teachers and/or assistants were involved in a training activity through TRIAD. The quality of this training is unsurpassed. In addition to the sessions offered at regional locations, our district was fortunate to have consultation and training provided on-site at our schools. I do not believe training of this quality and type is available anywhere else and even if it was, it would not be affordable for our school district. Our teachers are better prepared due to the training they received through TRIAD. However, the most important aspect is that our students receive the greatest benefit.

Jenny Thomas - Director of Special Education, Manchester City Schools, Manchester, TN

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