For disabled students, tears and cheers greet perseverance at school They finish program trained in computers

June 28, 1996|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

When a freak car accident left her legs paralyzed three years ago, Amanda Hansen worried not only that she would never walk again, but that she would never be able to work.

"It seemed like everything I was into had come to an end," said Hansen, 40, a wife and mother of two young boys. "I wasn't sure what I was going to do."

But yesterday, the Ellicott City woman's future looked brighter as she graduated from a college program at the Maryland Rehabilitation Center on Argonne Drive in Baltimore.

The program is designed to help people with disabilities return to work.

The Catonsville Community College/Division of Rehabilitation Services Computer Programming Training Program provides participants with skills aimed at helping them secure jobs in the microcomputer, data communications and networking fields.

One of several programs taught at the center as part of its Rehabilitation Technology Services curriculum, the computer training is an intensive, 13-month course that includes an internship at an area business.

On completion, participants receive 36 college credits.

Tears and cheers greeted the computer program's three graduates and 18 others receiving diplomas for completing various programs at the center.

All had disabilities from varied causes, including illness, accidents or drug or alcohol addiction.

William D. Buckley, lead instructor of the computer classes, said the center provides not only academic skills but support in dealing with disabilities.

"It returns them to society," Buckley said. "It helps people to see their value, to see what they can accomplish."

Hansen said she needed that sense of accomplishment after her accident.

She was a computer information systems student at the University of Maryland Baltimore County in 1993 when, while backing a car out of her driveway, she fell out and suffered a spinal cord injury.

"I could not do anything when I first came home because I was in a shell to stabilize my spine," said Hansen, who spent a week at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center and a month undergoing rehabilitative therapy at Good Samaritan Hospital.

"Once I got that shell off, I contacted my counselor to inquire about the different programs," she said.

Now, after completing an internship in which she helped create a complex database, Hansen said she is ready to find a job and dispel some of the stereotypes people have about the disabled.

"Once you get out there, you find there are so many things you can do," she said.

"You just have to get out there and do it."

Pub Date: 6/28/96

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