Chapel Haven West graduation June 10 celebrates major milestones of adult independence
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Chapel Haven West graduation June 10 celebrates major milestones of adult independence

Congrats to the Chapel Haven West Class of 2017!

Learning to manage an apartment, taking college-level classes, experiencing a first job – all are major milestones to achieve.

So the mood will be celebratory when the Chapel Haven West Class of 2017 celebrates their graduation ceremony Saturday, June 10, 10:30 a.m. in the University of Arizona Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences Building. The keynote will be Courtney Slanaker, Executive Director of World Care.  2014 Graduate Jonah Sabol, who is living independently in the Tucson community, will provide thoughts for the graduates. Each Chapel Haven West Graduate will share thoughts on their journey through the two-year program. Here is a snapshot of each grad and what they have achieved.

Thomas Sheliga came to Tucson from the Houston, Texas area. Thomas became a quiet leader among his peers, and reports Chapel Haven West, “helped me learn how to socialize, understand relationships, and manage my stress and anxiety.” Thomas is completing his studies in preparation for working in a veterinary office, and looks forward to working with Chapel Haven West as he completes his externship in this area soon. The Chapel Haven West team recognizes the hard work and dedication Thomas applied to his two-year program; Thomas is uniquely prepared for his next step in life – living with University of Arizona roommates in the Tucson community!

Jess Shull, from the Denver, Colorado area said, “Chapel Haven has helped me learn to live independently. I have learned how to follow a schedule and take care of my responsibilities. I learned to make and maintain friendships. I learned what it takes to be a good employee.”

Rebekah Miranda, Coordinator of Supported Living, says Jess gained paid employment early on, and now has two part-time jobs, at Home Depot and at Chapel Haven West. “We are so incredibly proud of all she has accomplished, and look forward to seeing her continue that growth in the Tucson community” Rebekah said.


Brian Puffer, from Tempe, Arizona says Chapel Haven West helped him get a job, make new friends and learn to manage his monthly budget. Finalizing his residential program at Chapel Haven West, Brian is now ready to move into his own apartment and continue with his job in the Canteen at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital.

“Brian has improved his focus immensely over the last two years,” says his point staff, Elise Swanson. “While he initially struggled to maintain attention on a subject, he worked so hard to improve that he was actually the first student offered paid employment this year. He is hugely dedicated to his work and his future.”

Benjamin Pillersdorf, who hails from Toronto, Ontario in Canada, said his residential program at Chapel Haven West has helped him in many ways. Like Brian, he will stay on in Tucson after graduation. While taking classes at Pima Community College, he is continuing internships at Arizona Theater Company and 1st Rate, 2nd Hand Thrift Store.

“Chapel Haven West has helped me understand what it is like to live and go to school independently in Tucson. It has also helped me learn skills like grocery shopping and laundry, and also the skills to be successful at work,” Ben said.

“Chapel Haven West has taught me to socialize, control my budget, fend for myself and be respectful around girls,” says Jonathan Holden, who is from Phoenix, Arizona. He will continue working at Yada-Yada Communications, living in the Tucson community, and taking a class in geology at Pima Community College.

Jonathan’s point staff, Elise Swanson, says she has seen tremendous growth for Jonathan. “He is more able to have positive interactions, which has led him to success in both college level courses and paid employment. He has come so far in the last two years and our team looks forward to his future.”

Congrats to all our graduates, we are very proud of you!

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This has been a special needs program update from Chapel Haven. You may also click here to read the original article on the main program website.