Fresno State program helps young adults with learning disabilities become independent

Wednesday, August 7, 2019
Program helps young adults with learning disabilities become independent
Wayfinders has been helping students achieve that goal for eight years now.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A group of students at Fresno State is learning a pretty important lesson.

The workshop they're taking is all about money management. It's an important life skill, but it can be a pain.

But math isn't the only difficulty; students in the class have intellectual or developmental disabilities.

"I had a little bit of a hard time counting change, but now that I have practiced a lot I have done better," said Porcha Hopson.

What they learn is just one step toward independence, and that's the mission behind the Fresno State Wayfinders program.

"Their goal is to live independently in an apartment with little to no supports and then find gainful and integrated employment," said vocational specialist Leslie Shirakawa.

Porcha Hopson started off as a timid student.

"You're not at home anymore and you feel like you're not ready for it and you want to go back home," she said.

Eventually, she got the hang of things and flourished.

She recently graduated and got a job at Wahoo's Fish Taco restaurant and is now a Wayfinders coach.

"I stuck it out, and I told myself, I am doing this for me and for my mom, and so far I did," she said.

Shirakawa says that's what it's all about.

The path includes students living on their own, getting placed in an internship, and taking classes at Fresno State.

But the transition from living at home to being on your own can be difficult.

"It is their decision-making, and I think that is a challenge for them, to feel confident with doing so," Shirakawa said.

About 40 students are currently enrolled in the two-year program.

Shirakawa says Hopson is the perfect example of what they're trying to achieve -- she also has some big news.

"Next week I'll be moving in with two other former students," Hopson said with a smile.