Do you remember how it felt when you moved out on your own for the first time? Excitement mixed with a sense of accomplishment, and a bit of apprehension about what the future had in store for you. The culmination of the skills and knowledge you gained along the way that prepared you for this moment… a sense of true independence! It was probably a huge milestone in your life. For Kim and Derquisha, however, their journey has been quite different.
Derquisha, a warm, funny, and energetic young woman sits at the kitchen table on Olde Hickory Road and tells me that she loves to make pancakes and fried chicken. This is just one of the many creative skills Derquisha has learned throughout her time at Excentia Human Services’ TRAIL Academy. Only 18 months prior, Derquisha was living at home with her father in Coatesville, without a job or the possibility of living on her own one day. Kim, a kind and hard-working woman, joins us at the kitchen table upon returning from her day at work and shares that at the courageous age of 54, she knew she needed to move out of her parents’ home and learn how to live independently. In a soft but affirming voice she says, “when my parents pass, I need to be able to take care of myself.”
Kim and Derquisha both have developmental needs and, like so many others with disabilities in our community, they didn’t always receive the supports they needed to live a self-sufficient life. Before starting TRAIL Academy, which stands for teaching, reaching, and achieving independent living, Derquisha and Kim had never met, but both women wanted to learn daily living skills, like creating a budget, maintaining a job, and using public transportation. When they heard about Excentia’s TRAIL Academy, they both thought it seemed like the perfect fit.
TRAIL Academy, a program that is unique to Excentia Human Services, was designed to prepare individuals to live independently, have healthy social relationships, and be able to access services available to all Lancaster County residents. The program is time-limited with a maximum of 18 months. Initially, supports are provided 24 hours per day, then decrease over the course of the program as skill levels and self-confidence increase.
During their time in the program, Derquisha and Kim learned to take Uber or public transportation to get where they needed to go. Every other week they swapped chores, and every other day they took turns cooking. In their free time, Kim and Derquisha enjoyed going to the movies, bowling, going out to eat, and watching TV – pizza and Law & Order were a favorite combination. Kim said that one of the best parts of TRAIL Academy is getting to know the community and finally feeling a part of it.
Kim and Derquisha have successfully graduated from TRAIL Academy. They both have jobs that they enjoy and that keep them quite busy, and receive ongoing job coaching from Excentia Human Services. Derquisha secured an apartment in downtown Lancaster where she will continue working at the job she enjoys, affording her the life she always dreamed of. Kim is on the hunt for an apartment as well and will temporarily commute from her parents’ home to work until she finds the perfect place for her.
TRAIL Academy is one of many programs Excentia Human Services offers to help ensure that all people have equal value and opportunities to lead productive and fulfilling lives. We are constantly striving to develop innovative services, empower more people, and create real change in our community. Your support can make the difference in widening our reach, expanding the TRAIL Academy program, and enhancing the lives of people with developmental needs.