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Andy Gardiner touts Center for Students with Unique Abilities at education summit

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

The push to make sure Florida graduates can enter the workforce shouldn’t stop when it comes to students with intellectual disabilities.

That was the message Senate President Andy Gardiner sent during a speech at the Degrees to Jobs Education Summit on Wednesday afternoon. Gardiner used his speech to highlight the work the Legislature has done to make sure all Floridians receive a good education.

The Orlando Republican also encouraged business and higher education officials to continue to work to make sure people with unique abilities have access to higher education opportunities and workforce training.

“As you spend your time talking about degrees and what we want to have, I hope … you won’t forget about this population,” said Gardiner. “There are families all over this state, kids who want to be part of this system.”

The state is already taking steps to make sure that students who want to be part of the system can be. Lawmakers earlier this year approved legislation to create a program at the University of Central Florida to help students with intellectual disabilities get into college and other post-secondary schools.

The program, dubbed the Florida Center for Students with Unique Abilities, would act as a clearinghouse to approve programs at other universities and colleges. It will also serve as a resource for students and parents to learn about programs.

Gardiner said officials from other states had already been in contact with the University of Central Florida to find out more about the program.

“We’ve been a real leader in this area,” said Gardiner.

Gardiner is one of several speakers who have taken the stage during the education summit. Gov. Rick Scott kicked off the event earlier in the day, and is scheduled to speak later Wednesday. He’s widely expected to roll out higher education initiatives aimed at helping students get out of college sooner.

The two-day event has been billed as a chance for the business community and higher education officials to make connections to ensure graduates are prepared for the workforce. While Scott is hosting the event, it is being sponsored by several outside organizations, including the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida College Foundation, and Universal Orlando.

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