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Posted on: December 4, 2018

Chesterfield First in Region to Partner with Growth Through Opportunity Cadets Program

CHESTERFIELD
COUNTY, VA — Today, Chesterfield County public safety and general servicesdepartments kicked off the inaugural 16-week Growth Through Opportunity, or
GTO, cadet academy, providing five adults with intellectual and developmentaldisabilities the opportunity to learn job skills from county employees. The
goal of the academy is to enhance safety and understanding among the GTO cadetsand first responders, and to help cadets develop transferable knowledge, skills
and abilities to earn competitive employment upon completion of the program.This is the first GTO Cadet academy in the Richmond region.


In concert with
the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services, GTO providesadults who have autism, down syndrome, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury
and other unique challenges an opportunity to gain valuable job skills andsocial experience. The five individuals participating in the academy are all
from Chesterfield and will train alongside members of the county’s Sheriff’sOffice and Police, Fire and Emergency Medical Services and General Services
departments.


“Chesterfield'sPublic Safety Community, Police, Sheriff, Fire and EMS, remain engaged in our
community every day through a number of programs and initiatives as we valuethose relationships,” Sheriff Karl Leonard said. “That is why we are very
excited about this joint endeavor and the positive impact that the GTO programwill have on these cadets. The cadets will get a one-of-a-kind opportunity to
interact with public safety that, in turn, will empower them long afterthey graduate and hopefully prepare them for gainful employment when they
leave.


GTO was foundedin November 2014 by Travis Akins, a 23-year veteran working in the criminal
justice system in a variety of law enforcement capacities. He and his team workwith each cadet to cater the volunteer experience specifically to their
interest and goals. The unique GTO Cadets program is endorsed by the NationalSheriffs’ Association, National Down Syndrome Society, and the ARC of the
United States, and was recently highlighted by the U.S. Department of Justice.GTO was the recipient of a 2017 HARVARD Kennedy School Innovations & Bright
Ideas award and recognized on Capitol Hill as the Champion of Change —Organization of the Year in 2017. GTO currently partners with 30 public safety
agencies across Virginia and Minnesota with a goal of expanding nationwide overthe next few years.


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