Georgia's lieutenant governor lauds graduates

2014 Inclusive Education Grad dc 103.jpg

KENNESAW, Ga. (May 15, 2014) - Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth first-year…

Georgia (May 15, 2014)

KENNESAW, Ga. (May 15, 2014)Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth first-year student Charlie Miller bristles at the suggestion of one day becoming a politician. Instead, Miller says he wants to be a public servant who builds consensus among stakeholders.

“I want to help the people around me,” Miller said. “I’m tired of all the partisan politics; I want to hear each side of an issue and work to build agreements around decisions.”

And, he took just that approach when suggesting – then inviting – Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle to be the Academy’s commencement keynote speaker May 14.

Miller, along with other first-year Academy students, organized Wednesday’s graduation ceremony, which saw 10 students with developmental and intellectual disabilities receive certificates of achievement.

“Charlie personally came to my office and came to my assistant and said, ‘I need the lieutenant governor to do a big favor for me,” Cagle said in his opening remarks. “I had no idea it was going to be a commencement address, but Charlie, he always likes to shoot for the moon, and that’s what I like most about him.”

From its humble beginnings of two graduates four years ago, to 10 graduates donning caps and gowns in a ceremony held in the Prillaman Hall Auditorium packed with proud family and friends, the Academy is coming into its own.

“We could not be prouder of each and every one of you and your accomplishments,” said Beverly Maddox, director of grants for the Academy. Maddox read remarks on behalf of WellStar Health and Human Services Dean Richard Sowell who could not attend. “Your presence in the WellStar College and on the campus of Kennesaw State University has enriched us all.”

Before handing out the certificates, President Daniel S. Papp thanked Cagle for his support, as well as the Academy’s community partners and campus supporters, noting the Academy couldn’t exist without it. In the end, however, it was the students who had to do the hard work to make the graduation ceremony a reality.

“I guarantee you over the upcoming days, weeks, months and years, you’ll see the work you put in the last few years has been well worth it,” Papp said.

Speaking on behalf of the parents of graduates, Patricia Roper offered heartfelt thanks to the Academy and Kennesaw State University.

“It’s a unique experience raising a child with disabilities,” she said. “The Academy offered our children something no one else in the state of Georgia offered. The socialization, the confidence, the ability to ask questions and do things; I have watched each and every one of these children grow. This program has touched my life in many ways.”

A cancer survivor, Roper said Wednesday’s ceremony was the culmination of a lifelong dream.

“I’ve survived breast cancer, a lung ailment, ovarian cancer and 15 surgeries to see my child got what she needed, and KSU gave her what she needed,” she said.

The Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth offers students with developmental and intellectual disabilities the opportunity for a college experience. Academy students audit college-level courses in the only two-year certificate program in Georgia to offer post-secondary educational opportunities to persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“Here in my time at the KSU Academy for Inclusive Learning I have learned so much, from not letting my laundry turn pink to figuring out which is the right train to take to the capitol in D.C.,” Miller said in his opening remarks.

For the first time, Academy students took their learning off campus and traveled to Washington, D.C. in April. The students met with Sen. Johnny Isakson, toured the capitol, visited numerous tourist attractions and met with disability advocates.

“I decided to take the students there because I think it’s very important to take the voice of the students to Washington, and it was also an experiment of sorts,” said Executive Director Ibrahim Elsawy. “This was the first step in establishing a study abroad trip for Academy students and further mainstreaming their college experience. With the continued support from the university and the university administration, we will be ready for study abroad next year.”

--Jennifer Hafer

Photo by: David Caselli


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit