Community celebrates special needs program

Published 9:33pm Saturday, May 4, 2013

Nestled on the corner of Lauderdale Street and McLeod Avenue lies the Child Advocacy Academic Learning Center, which houses the Selma Disabilities Advocacy Program. Friday the building was filled with some of Selma’s most special residents in addition to Selma High School cheerleaders, Selma Mayor George Evans, State Rep. Darrio Melton and other state and country representatives, who gathered together to celebrate Special Needs Day.

The morning also celebrated a ribbon cutting of the advocacy center’s new autism resource center.

Carolyn Bates, director of the SDAP addressed the room lined with various plaques and proclamations, reminding those individuals with special needs that the advocacy center is a place just for them.

“Our museum represents people with disabilities to let you know that just because you have a disability does not mean that you can not be a successful person. You can be anything and anybody you want to be,” Bates said. “Don’t let anybody fool you, just because you’re sitting in a wheelchair. You can be anything that you want to be. Don’t let anything or anybody stop you.”

Bates told the audience there are a lot of people on board, eager to make sure students are getting what they need, “and that is a free and appropriate education and services that you need to be a successful person with a disability.”

Evans was the first of many to present his congratulations on the opening of the new autism resource center and read a proclamation on behalf of the city of Selma.

“I want to commend Mrs. Bates on her continuous progress that she is making with this center,” he said. “The city of Selma has greatly benefited from the love, determination, volunteer hours and many years of providing service by Carolyn Bates, that has dedicated to making citizens with disabilities and special needs are afforded an equal opportunity to become productive citizens.”

Before the center received a proclamation from U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, Selma City Councilman Greg Bjelke, who represents Ward 3, said the center is not only a facility to be proud of but a gem in Ward 3. Sheryl Smedley, Executive Director at Selma Dallas County Chamber of Commerce also shared her admiration of the center on Special Needs Day.

“This is a very special place. This is the center, heart of our community right here, and I’m just so blessed to be a part of this,” Smedley told the group before addressing Bates. “Your determination and drive is something that we all admire here. And I’d just encourage everyone to embrace it, because every time I come here I’m just impressed on what you’re doing to give back to the special citizens of our community.”

Bates thanked everyone who came out and supported the opening of the new autism and resource center and celebrated SDAP Special Needs Day.

“I’m overwhelmed by these announcements and presentations, but it’s not all about me, it’s all about my people,” she said. “One thing I worked for very, very hard was that we had a disabilities center in Selma. This is your center.”

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