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March 13, 2024 | By Julia Hamill, CONNECT intern with JCCC Strategic Communications and Marketing

Developmental disabilities prove no obstacle to joining student government

L to R: Mark Brimmerman, Mya Lawrence, Hank Wolf

Mark Brimmerman and Hank Wolf are both a part of the JCCC CONNECT program and Student Senate.

They each have disabilities as well.

The CONNECT program is a two-year transition program designed for students with intellectual or developmental disabilities. It helps to bridge the gap between high school and adulthood, featuring program-specific courses in career development, independent living, and life planning as well as college courses for credit or audit. CONNECT students also complete an on-campus internship.

Hank Wolf is a second-year student of the CONNECT program. When he is not at school he works at The Golden Scoop in Overland Park. Hank also has Down’s Syndrome. One day in class, students were talking about goals for their college careers. While talking about clubs to join, Hank mentioned he was a part of student government in high school and how much he wanted to join it at JCCC. He was appointed as a representative from the CONNECT program. His fellow classmates were excited for him, telling Hank to go for it.

Mark Brimmerman is a first-year student of CONNECT, and a graduate of Olathe East High School. When Mark is not at school, he works at Santa Marta Retirement Community. Mark was inspired by Hank to run his own campaign to join the Senate. Later in his Career and Life Planning class, he asked if he could run to be on the Student Senate. He told everyone in the CONNECT Program to vote for him. The votes from his classmates helped him win his spot on the Student Senate.

Hank and Mark go to Senate meetings together. During meetings, they share updates about the CONNECT program with the larger group, helping to give the program a stronger role on campus. A lot of the Student Senate members have become friends with the CONNECT program students.

Hank will graduate from the CONNECT program in May 2024.  Mya Lawrence, the Student Life/Leadership Development Manager at JCCC and who is in charge of the Student Senate, said “I will miss Hank when he graduates from CONNECT. I am proud of him.”

The CONNECT students want everyone to know that if you have a disability, don’t be scared to use your voice - because sometimes using your voice is not as bad as you think.