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Your Dollars @ Work: Scholarship Recipient Speaks at GA Walk Kick Off!

The Your Dollars @ Work post below features a speech made at the Georgia Walk Now for Autism Speaks Kickoff by 22-year-old Haden Keen, a recipient of a scholarship at Kennesaw State University through the Brian and Patricia Kelly Postsecondary Scholarship Fund.

Good Evening. My name is Haden Keen. I am currently attending at Kennesaw State University’s Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth, a program at KSU that Autism Speaks is partnered with. The purpose for my speaking tonight is to wish this organization a tremendous thank you. Without your grant of $5,000 I don’t know where I would be (no seriously I really wouldn’t know).

I am so grateful that because of your $5,000, kids (well High School Graduates) with disabilities like myself can be able to have the college life as well. If it’s alright with you, let me tell you a few things about myself.

First the basic stuff - I am a 22-year-old young adult and I proudly attend Kennesaw State University, or “The best college ever made in the state of Georgia,” says my mom. She is a faculty member there as well, but we’re not here for her, we’re here for me.

Second why am I here - The reason for why I’m here shaking like crazy is because of the Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth. Let’s go into my time machine back to 2012-2013. I graduated from CreekView High School and I was planning on going to a college in Rome (Georgia, ladies and gentleman not the one in Italy although it would be great) named Georgia Highlands. I was also going to go to a place fairly close to college named Cave Springs. Needless to say, due to Vocational Rehabilitation's (another department in Georgia) lack of funding, instead of going to college for 4 years, I was a couch potato for a year instead. (And boy did my mom not like that!)

Now let’s go forward to 2014-2015. I was still being a couch potato when my mom heard about this week long event and she strongly insisted that I go so I did.

I attended The Summer Intensive Program and I seemed to have shined in the eyes of the programs coordinator which was Dr. Karla Wade (who is not here tonight). After I did a presentation, she said to me, “Haden, you are a great fit for this program called the Academy for Inclusive Learning, if you want it, I strongly suggest you apply.” And without a doubt, I went home and applied, got accepted and now I’m so happy to say, I am here talking to you.

Third, the life at the Academy - To be completely honest life at the Academy is truly a dream come true. Doors in my life were finally open that I didn’t even know could be open. Some examples are I meet and have some out of this world best friends. Tylor McDonald, John Wells, Ryan Phillips, Anna Mason and Natallie Gomez to name a few. I really didn’t expect to meet my girlfriend Jade Tumlin who I’ve been dating for 5 almost 6 months now there either. Another is the totally rockin awesome staff there.

We the student including me say that we are a family. Dr. Elaswy and Dr. Karla Wade are our second Mom and Dad. Julia, Kathrine  and Sue who is with me tonight are the Aunts, and Chris Trapp is the uncle. And you can guess what we are all to them (that’s right) - we’re the kids. Another is the amazing mentors we have there like Camillah,  Nijiriah, Wallis, Aaisha and Josh, just to name a few.

Well I’ve reached the end of this speech but before I go I want to say am truly honored for having this $5,000 Scholarship for college. Without your support I wouldn’t be able to have the tools I need to become someone of this world. Your organization makes not only a difference in my life but in the lives of my friends and in the Academy and to the future lives of Academy. So it gives me great pleasure to say from the staff at KSU and Definitely the current and future students of Kennesaw State University Keep up the Amazing and life changing donation of  $25,000 to this program.


The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.