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Linda Little Receives Lighthouse Award

Linda Little holds her Lighthouse Award

Linda Little, UCPS Exceptional Children’s Transition Specialist, received the Lighthouse Award presented by the Council for Exceptional Children North Carolina Division on Career Development and Transition at their spring conference in mid April. The Lighthouse Award is given to an individual or group that has made a difference through commitment and dedication to ensuring that all students with disabilities in North Carolina make a successful transition from school to adult life. Linda has aspired to and made a difference through commitment and dedication to ensuring that all students with disabilities in Union County and North Carolina make a successful transition from school to adult life. She demonstrates this commitment and dedication through word, action and deed and has pushed Union County and its transition programs for Occupational Course of Study (OCS) and Transition to Adulthood (TTA) to the forefront in programming and community-based opportunities.

Ms. Little brings her background of 14 years as a Human Resources Director for the hospitality industry into the mix of providing opportunities and guidance for the students with disabilities as well as their teachers, job coaches, and community–based vocational training coordinator. Her background within the educational realm includes a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Speech Communication. During her current eight year tenure as Transition Specialist, she has also completed a Masters Degree in Elementary Education. Taking her knowledge further to work with students with disabilities across the state, Linda serves as a Transition Trainer for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. To further hone her administrative skills in the area of special education, Linda has also participated and completed the New Exceptional Children (EC) Directors’ Training Institute this past year. All of the qualities, talents and skills utilized in these different areas make Linda Little the perfect fit for the exemplary delivery of services to students with disabilities. But these qualities do not complete the whole puzzle as to what is required to do the job she does every day of her life. Linda exhibits true compassion, caring and intuitive understanding of what needs to take place to make these young adults successful contributors to their homes and communities. She does all of this with professionalism and expects no less from those with whom she works or from the students with whom she interacts.

Linda’s role in the delivery of transition services spans from the community to the school setting. Her community involvement opens many doors of opportunity for students. She serves as chairperson of First in Families-Southern Piedmont, as co-chairperson for Union County System of Care, as a member of the Piedmont Behavior Health Advisory Council, as a member of South Piedmont Community College Early Education Advisory Council and Union County Public Schools Special Needs Advisory Council (SNAC); a parent advisory council which she was instrumental in establishing. Linda is heavily involved with transition of students with disabilities at the state level by being an executive board member of the NC Division on Career Development and Transition and member of the NC Dream Team of PEPNET, which is a collaborative for the D/HH population. She is an active member of such professional organizations as the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) and National Education Association (NEA). Linda has been asked to present at state and national Transition conferences. Having her office housed in the local Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) office has allowed Linda to collaborate with the VR counselors and she attends their regional meetings to keep abreast of information. Through this collaboration, she has fostered a relationship with the agency and subsequently UCPS and UC-VR co-sponsor an Employer Appreciation Day which is far-reaching into the community to honor all the businesses that support our employment programs for students and individuals with disabilities.

It is almost impossible to narrow Linda’s list of accomplishments to a mere set of three. Everything she does is done to better the lives of students with disabilities locally in Union County or statewide throughout North Carolina. For the past five years, Linda has chaired the committee and spearheaded the Annual Embracing Transition Fair for students with disabilities in Union County. This annual event involves collaboration between Union County Public Schools, the VR office and South Piedmont Community College in order to provide a venue for at least 30 community agencies that provide services for individuals with disabilities. Linda has shared with others around the state how she started this event and this sharing of ideas has spurred others to replicate her idea.

Linda has been instrumental in the evolution of the Occupational Course of Study program within Union County Public Schools, and by doing so, has helped shape the way the program is presented in our state today; especially with the changes incurred due to teacher certification and highly qualified status. Through the wave of change created due to the finding of the federal government, Linda worked with EC and general education teachers alike to prepare Moodle units of learning to address the requirements of the OCS curriculum. She has served as the lead person for the pilot program of North Carolina Virtual Public Schools (NCVPS) OCS On-line Blended Courses for Union County with the advent of the new Future-Ready OCS pathway. She also assisted with the revision of the district-wide OCS curriculum sequence along with general education curriculum coordinators. Linda is cognizant of all that transpires within her field of expertise and offers solutions to any situation or problem that arises.

Her newest pet project is S.T.E.A.M. of which she is co-designer. Striving Towards Employment and Maintaining is a pilot program created again in collaboration with the local VR Office. This program was developed to assist 11th and 12th grade students receiving special education services seeking employment. S.T.E.A.M. sessions are held monthly and provide assistance in preparation, gaining, and maintaining meaningful employment. The project supports students in developing skill sets for seeking and maintaining employment, provides resources for students, parents, teachers and community employers, provides students with a simulated environment to prepare for “real-life” job seeking experiences and develops self-advocacy skills by assisting students in the utilization of resources available to them.

There are so many other projects and services which Linda has brought to the students of UCPS that justice could not be done in just naming three. She is the epitome of professionalism in all aspects of her life and career in education as mentioned before. She is a proactive rather than a reactive force in the education of our OCS and TTA students. She puts things in place to address all needs of the students and teachers which she serves, and does this always with a smile on her face and a song in her heart. Linda Little exemplifies the meaning of a lighthouse as her expertise, professionalism and love for the students always shines.

Written by: Janie Webb, Assistant EC Director
Posted: Apr 29, 2011 by CoRetta Limous

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