STRAIGHT TALK: Carving a Path to Success

By Amara Hazzard

My name is Amara Maria Hazzard, and I am a second year student at the EXCEL program at Georgia Tech. EXCEL is a certificate program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

I grew up in Georgia and attended a mostly segregated school, and I took most of my classes with students with disabilities. I began my education taking classes in a regular ed classroom around the time I was in kindergarten through fifth grade.

After that, I went to a lot of different schools and was in Special Ed classes in all of those schools. I took all of my classes with students who had disabilities. I felt like none of the schools helped me, and I felt lost. Then I went to South Gwinnett High School, and there I blossomed. I was still in the separate Special Ed classes, but I felt accepted and even joined the cheerleading team.

I came to Georgia Tech EXCEL, and I really blossomed. I got my first job by myself during my first semester of my first year here. I know how to get around campus by myself. I’m very, very determined. I want to tell everyone that they can do it, with or without a disability. You can get into college; you can get a job. You can have support if you need it. I met a lot of friends on campus. We go to the mall, plan holiday parties, attend sporting events, cook together and have a great time.

Some of my favorite things that I’m doing at college are going to my first frat house party. A lot of my friends were there. I volunteer a lot around campus. I’m an events coordinator for GIFTED (God’s Influence Flowing Through Every Disciple), a Christian club on campus. I was a member of the cast of “What’s Going On, Part 2” that performed the first week of December.

This play was about social justice in the world in the format of stories about a group of college students. I am a member of Caterpillar’s Promise, an organization that helps young kids find their way in the world through mentors and workshops. I have led student Open House tours for EXCEL as well as given MARTA transportation training for EXCEL students.

My classes have been great. Some of my favorite learning activities include making a fidget spinner in Collaborative Design class; learning about wheelchair (in-) accessibility around campus sidewalks, streets and classrooms; and learning how to budget my money in Financial Literacy.

One thing that I want to do before I leave college is to continue to maintain a steady job at least ten hours a week during classes. For my internship in Spring of 2018, I am hoping to be working at the front desk at Lutheran Towers, a senior adult apartment complex. This will give me an opportunity to show my love for people. After college, I would like to have my own apartment, have a job, and live life to the fullest!

I am proud of myself for being an advocate and sharing my story with other young people who are starting to carve their own path for success.

Amara Hazzard is 20 years old, from Loganville, GA. She likes to hang out with her boyfriend, Kenny. She has a large family that spends much time together at family reunions in Georgia, Louisiana, Texas and Pennsylvania. Her favorite color is purple. She cooks a delicious organic pasta sauce and misses her sister, Aria, and their three pets while she is away at college. She hopes to one day soon travel to Las Vegas, NV.

To read more in Making a Difference magazine, see below:

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Tags: GCDD, Making a Difference, Straight Talk