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Check & Connect

Ann Chouinard and Aaron Mertes are two new employees at Central Lakes
College, hired for the Check and Connect disabilities support program. They are referred to as
“coaches” who will work as part of a team that includes counselors, advisers,
Occupational Skills Program and disabilities services staff, faculty, family
members, and the qualifying students. Ann last December
received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Work from the College of St.
Scholastica after receiving her AA degree from Central
Lakes College. Chouinard began as a C and
C coach in May and she is a licensed social worker. Chouinard resides in
Aitkin. Aaron earned his B.A. from the University of
Minnesota Duluth after receiving an AA degree from Central Lakes College. He is
a Brainerd High School graduate and had been employed at Confidence Learning
Center, Pine River-Backus High School, and Life Support Services to gain nearly
six years’ experience working with people with disabilities. Check and Connect is an initiative funded, in
part, by a Transition Program for Students with Intellectual Disabilities
(TPSID) grant for higher education. Partners in securing the grant include CLC
and the OSP and disabilities programs at Ridgewater College, Willmar, and the
Institute on Community Integration at the University of Minnesota. The Check and Connect
program at CLC is an inclusive and comprehensive model for engaging and
retaining students with intellectual disabilities in higher education.

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