Aspire of WNY Celebrates B.R.I.D.G.E.S Program Graduation Ceremonies

Tassels were turned on November 14th and 15th, as Aspire of WNY held graduation ceremonies to help recognize the graduates of the B.R.I.D.G.E.S. 1.0 and 2.0 programs at the agency’s Training Academy.

B.R.I.D.G.E.S. (Bridging Relationships, Integration, Dreams, Goals, Equal Opportunity for Success) is a 10-month-long learning program held at Aspire of WNY’s training academy in Getzville. The program includes 5 eight-week learning modules and centers around community learning connections.

The learning modules include topics of health and wellness, social relations/community engagement, home stability/neighborhood engagement, financial health, and education opportunities for overall well-being. All learning opportunities have a connection to a community learning experience where learned skills can be applied.

The B.R.I.D.G.E.S. 2.0 graduation took place at the Training Academy on Wednesday, November 15th, and recognized the accomplishments of Allison Noonan, Diamond Colbert, and Vincent Celeste. Their teachers were Scott Marracino and Dawn Jacoby. The B.R.I.D.G.E.S. 1.0 graduation was on the following day, Thursday, November 16th, and recognized Hayley Schenkler and George Nicholas, who were taught by Dawn Jacoby.

(See a full gallery of photos from the graduations at the end of this article)

Joining the graduates on their big day were friends, family, staff members, and some members of the executive team at Aspire of WNY. Teachers from both the 1.0 and 2.0 programs delivered speeches to help recognize each graduate and all that they have accomplished throughout their time in the program. Graduates walked up to the front to receive a certificate of achievement, and some decided to deliver a speech as they accepted their certificates. After the ceremony came to a close, graduates and cheerleaders alike stuck around to mingle and enjoy some refreshments.

“It’s so amazing to see how much everyone involved in the program has grown over the course of 10 months,” explains Christine Lalka, Director of Community Habilitation and Respite Services at Aspire of WNY.


“The B.R.I.D.G.E.S. program is just another facet of working to achieve our agency’s goal of helping individuals live to their own highest levels of independence,” explains Renee Filip, President and CEO at Aspire of WNY. “The skills learned by individuals in the program can be taken with them far past their graduation day, so celebrating our graduates is really special.”

ABOUT ASPIRE OF WNY: At Aspire of WNY, we are driven by the core belief that children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities have the right to realize their full potential and live as independently as possible. Aspire of WNY compassionately and relentlessly works toward facilitating this end. Our total commitment is to the development of innovative, individualized programs. We continually strive for the integration of the developmentally disabled within the WNY community. Aspire of WNY is proud to provide full-service solutions to the populations we serve, making Aspire of WNY the leading agency of its kind and a true asset to the Western New York Community. Aspire of WNY is celebrating its 76th year of supporting 3,000+ individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the WNY area. Aspire of WNY is a large employer with 1,500+ associates.