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Students from the surrounding area are given job placements, vocational training and real world life skills training, which includes things like learning to take public transportation. Currently, there are 11 students enrolled for the 2010 11 school year.

Kaitlyne, though, hopes to someday become a nurse like her mother.

"We went ahead and thought that was something crucial for kids' development as adults because that's when they were really entering the adult world and it was appropriate to have them on a campus setting," Emory said.

One of the three graduates, Kaitlyne, 21, has perhaps had the longest and most painful journey of all.

Local disabled students graduate from program that offers training for life in the real world

It is this attitude and this sense of humor that McNamara says keeps her going, though her family has proved to be the most supportive of all.

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McNamara is also the first person in the country to have received a stem cell bladder transplant, a feat which landed her in front of former president George W. Bush.

Three students Kaitlyne McNamara Prada Crossbody

of Middletown, Robert "Bobby" McElroy of Middletown and Raffaele "Luce" D'Angelo of Cromwell graduated from Middlesex Transition Academy Thursday inside Wesleyan University's Fayerweather Hall.

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"He is so friendly," Mallin said. "He started out so shy and now he talks to everybody."

As far as future plans for the two Middletown residents, "Bobby is still deciding," his mother said. "There's still so much to expose him to."

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Born with Spina Bifida, McNamara has undergone a total of 56 surgeries. By the time she was two years old, she was in a full body cast.

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"We wanted to get funding for it so my doctor could afford to do more stem cell research," McNamara said.

Bobby McElroy, on the other hand, cannot properly refer to his handicap because doctors do not yet have a name for it. He has difficulty with his speech.

"I have a great support system. I have my mom, my dad, my brother and they help me make my decisions. I have my family's interests at heart," McNamara said. "Not everyone has a family like that so I'm just grateful for the family I have."

MTA is a program which was developed seven years ago by Amy Emory, Ann Mallin and Frank Kwan.

"Doctors just say that he has multiple handicaps," his mother, Laura McElroy, said.

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"I think it's an opportunity to connect with the community in a nontraditional way," Kwan said. "It's a way for students who have a lot of Prada Nylon Chain Bag

Initially presented with a grant totaling $10,000 from the state Department of Prada Sunglasses Men Aviator

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Kwan, the executive director of the Center for Community Partnerships at Wesleyan University, was part of a committee that wanted to give men and women ages 18 to 21 with disabilities a "traditional college experience."

Like McNamara, McElroy said he loved being a part of the MTA program, particularly working in the Wesleyan cafeteria because he "got to talk to a lot of people."

"He's always been popular," his father, Robert McElroy said. "In high school, he was the manager of the basketball team and, Prada Red Backpack you would imagine, someone of his stature would get picked on. But the basketball team, they protected him."

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According to his parents, friends and teachers, McElroy shines when he is communicating with people.

Regardless of what lies ahead, MTA's newest graduates have the skills needed to get there.

"This is one chapter of their lives and there's going to be many more chapters yet to be written," Kwan said. "But what they've learned here will help them in their future."

According to Mallin, the program initially began with two students, a job coach and a single teacher. Today, the three year program has seven students (with 11 enrolled for next year), one full time special education teacher and five support staff.

"Basically, my mom called me a turtle because it looked like a turtle shell," McNamara said, giggling. "It would be like the full body cast and then I would have a giant hump on my back so it looked like a turtle shell and it was green, too."

"It's been a long journey," McNamara said. "She was born with a pretty intimidating diagnosis so her name is not what I had chosen during the nine months I carried her. It was important for me at that time that she never become her diagnosis, that she have a personality outside of that. So her name changed so that she had more letters in her name than her diagnosis."

"I definitely want to go back to school," McNamara said. "It's always been my dream to follow in my mom's footsteps and my mom is a nurse so it would be my dream to try and go back to school and become a nurse."

McNamara's mom, Tracy, said that she was so proud of her daughter that she started crying during the ceremony.

ability but just need the opportunity to branch out and reach out."

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"No kid wants to watch their friends graduate and then have to stay," McNamara said. "They all want to go with their friends. And that's what this program allowed me to do."

Education, Mallin, a transitional consultant with the Capital Region Education Council and MTA coordinator, and Emory, a pupil personnel director, teamed up with Kwan to brainstorm a program structure.

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