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Growth Through Opportunities Award Ceremony


A group of cadets celebrate graduation.

March is Developmental Disability Awareness Month and a new area coalition recognizes that young adults with unique challenges can gain valuable social experience and job skills by volunteering with first responder agencies. On March 24, Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) and other partners, celebrated the cadets that are part of the first cohort of the Growth Through Opportunities (GTO) Program.

“The GTO program is mutually beneficial for individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD), as well as for first responders, as we often find we are learning as much from them as they do from us,” shares BCSO Crime Prevention Sergeant Kelli Tinsley. The national award-winning GTO Cadet Model Program recognizes that many young adults with disabilities frequently encounter a need for services that outweighs the programs available to them. GTO is designed for adults with I/DD that need assistance gaining valuable social and career experience in a professional setting. The participants are placed with local law enforcement and first responder agencies with staff support from human services agencies.

“The GTO program provides us with the wonderful opportunity to recognize the contribution that individuals with I/DD can make in our community," shares Greta Byrd, Executive Director of Liberty Corner Enterprises. "The enthusiasm of the cadets and the first responder agencies to continue this first year despite the challenges of the COVID pandemic has been amazing!"