Paulk brothers graduate from EAGLE Academy, reflect on making friends, having fun 

For spring graduates Dale and Alex Paulk, friends and fun are top of the list of things they have enjoyed about their time in EAGLE Academy at Georgia Southern University.

Dale, 20, and Alex, 22, are brothers who crossed the commencement stage during the University’s spring commencement ceremonies to commemorate earning their certificates from EAGLE Academy, Georgia Southern’s post-secondary, two-year inclusive program for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Through their time in EAGLE Academy, Alex and Dale, who are originally from Baxley, Georgia, were able to experience college life through career exploration classes, attending campus events like football games and finding on-campus work opportunities.

“Alex and Dale have both grown tremendously during their two years here at Georgia Southern,” said Stephanie Devine, Ph.D., executive director of EAGLE Academy. “They both came to us excited but nervous about taking this step away from home and family. They have matured so much.”

Dale and Alex were able to explore their areas of interest through the classes they took.

Dale loves music and aspires to be a DJ and a YouTuber. He was able to take classes about music, business and social media. He also developed workplace skills through on-campus employment in Dining Commons. Meeting new people and making friends with his co-workers was his favorite part of the job.

Alex has focused on expanding his knowledge in art and was able to do so through his drawing and painting classes. Alex also found an on-campus internship at the Eagle Essentials Food Pantry. There, he not only helped sort and organize donations for students in need but also worked with a peer mentor to design and paint some of the signage. His favorite part of interning there was meeting new people.

“Both Alex and Dale have developed their resumes, built interview skills and have had practice and support filling out job applications for summer employment as well,” Devine said.

EAGLE Academy, named for its commitment to Equal Access to Gainful Learning and Employment, is unique to most programs of its kind in that students are given a custom-built academic program based on their interests, giving the students the same opportunity that others on campus have to take courses for credit and work toward their career goals.

Students also live on campus, allowing them to become fully immersed in campus life and have easy access to all campus amenities. Those enrolled in the program are also trained for employment through internships or paid jobs which are secured with the assistance of the Academy’s team.

Devine added part of the focus of EAGLE Academy is to help students develop social skills and feel part of the campus community.

“For students who need a lot of support, we have peer mentors who will go with them to games or other campus activities to help bridge that gap or that fear and anxiety that may exist,” she added. “We also spend a lot of time exploring and encouraging our students to find and join a student club or organization they are interested in.”

Alex and Dale explored various clubs and activities, but enjoyed attending sporting events the most, Devine said. They also shared that they enjoyed getting together with friends and watching wrestling.
The brothers said they will miss the friends they have made the most.

“It has been an incredible privilege to watch these young men grow over the two years they have been in the EAGLE Academy program. I’m really going to miss them,” Devine said.

For more information about EAGLE Academy, visit https://coe.georgiasouthern.edu/eagle-academy/.

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