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KDE uses federal funding to award scholarships to 87 students with disabilities

The funds would help those with disabilities impacted by COVID-19 to continue their education.
Credit: Alexey Stiop - stock.adobe.com
Capitol building in Frankfort, Kentucky

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Several Kentucky high school students with disabilities are now $2,500 richer, thanks to the Office of Special Education and Early Learning and the Kentucky Department of Education.

According to a press release, the American Rescue Plan Act, which gave Kentucky public schools more than $2 billion, authorized a third round of funding from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund to support students most impacted by the pandemic.

Named after the U.S. Department of Labor’s theme for the 2021 National Disability Employment Awareness Month, “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion,” the KDE Powered by Inclusion scholarship is a nonrenewable $2,500 award to use at any in- or out-of-state college or university, training program or post-secondary educational opportunity.

“We recognized that the pandemic limited opportunities for students receiving special education services to gain job experience and financial support through paid work experience,” Jason Wheatley, an Office of Special Education and Early Learning ARP transition specialist, said. 

Local boards of education nominated up to two students per public school district. Eligible applicants required necessary Individual Education Program documentation and obtained post-secondary readiness through career or academic routes, according to the release.

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Danyelle Tucker, a recent graduate of Southern High School, plans to pursue a four-year degree at Bellarmine University starting in the fall. In her application, Tucker says she is prepared to take the next step in her life.

“I was diagnosed with autism at age 2, so I have been striving to overcome many challenges in my life related to socialization and communication,” Tucker says. “But with my faith in God, and a lot of family love and support, I have arrived where I am today.”

Tucker’s mother, Jennifer, says the scholarship meant a lot to her daughter who felt the award indicated Danyelle was right in line with her peers.

“Having autism and being in special needs classes, that’s not always the end goal for students in those classes,” Tucker says. “In her congratulation letter, it said she was postsecondary ready. To her, that was a huge accomplishment for her that she didn’t always see she would be able to achieve.”

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