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Dreaming big

"Dreaming big" Continued...

Issue: "GOP idea man," May 22, 2010

Not all of these dreams will come true. Due to their disabilities, some students may not be able to own their own businesses or run their own kitchens, but Shepherds College encourages them to dream big about the future, while striking a balance with each student's limitations: "We encourage them to dream and temper their dreams with realities," college director Tracy Terrill says.

While the heights of the profession may not be achievable, Brett McCarthy, the lead instructor in the Culinary Arts program, who previously taught Culinary Arts at a community college in Tennessee, believes that his students can have a productive career in the kitchen. Certain techniques may be adjusted around a student's disability-slowed down knife work where coordination is impaired­-but the underlying theory remains unchanged. "There is some modification, but everything I taught in community college is what I'm teaching here," McCarthy said. "It's not dumbing down, we don't do that. It's accommodating."

McCarthy believes that in some ways, student's disabilities can become strengths in the kitchen: "A lot of my college students wanted to do it their way. These students are much more accommodating about learning to do it the right way. This isn't Food Network, this is training for a career. I wouldn't be here if I didn't think I was preparing my students for a career."

Shepherds' ongoing transformation doesn't begin and end with the new college, which plans to double in size with an incoming class of 14. Shepherds' philosophy of "Appropriate Independence,"-balancing independence with Christian accountability-is evident throughout the ministry. In addition to the respite care for severely disabled residents, Shepherds offers a spectrum of assistance: Some clients live in group homes while others, in off-campus apartments, come in for meals and work.

"We begin with the presupposition that God has a purpose for each client," Shepherds Ministries Vice President Russ Kinkade said. That's why the ministry established Shepherds Enterprises, where developmentally disabled clients make soy candles, address envelopes, or punch out cardboard to create 3D floor displays for national retailers. It's mostly piece work, which allows individuals to work at their own pace. At the end of the week, each gets a paycheck, money they've earned through their own hard work.

"I enjoy that you can work as hard as you can, get as much done as you can. I glorify God by doing the best job I can," said Peter Annis, a client who lives off campus and drives to work at Shepherds every day.

Changing societal views and new medical advances may again put Shepherds out of touch with the mainstream views about disabilities. Soon, genetic tests for Down syndrome and other disabilities will become readily available. Kinkade said, "In 10 years, if you see a family with a young child with Down syndrome, you will know that that family made a deliberate decision to continue the pregnancy and bring that child into the world. They will be viewed by the community as irresponsible."

If it comes to pass, it may make Shepherds' work more vital than ever, as Christians will need to do even more to support families with disabled children. Whatever needs those families have, and whatever society says about their children's value, Shepherds plans to be there for them. "We view people as created by God," Kinkade said. "Not as an accident or a mistake. God is going to use them."
Click here to listen to WORLD editor in chief Marvin Olasky discuss with Alisa Harris the Midwest regional finalists.
To view a video profile of Shepherds College and of each of the other 2010 regional finalists and to read profiles of finalists and winners from 2006 through 2009, visit WORLDmag.com/compassion.

Shepherds Ministries Factbox

Location: Union Grove, Wis.

Founded: Shepherds Ministries founded in 1957. Shepherds College founded in 2008

Size: 140 Residents; 12 students enrolled in college (adding 14 more next year); 120 staff (full-time and part-time)

Annual Budget: $8 million

Website: www.shepherdsministries.org / www.shepherdscollege.org

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