A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Finally getting his college diploma, Ron Haley conquered his disability, helps others at Zembrodt

By Andy Furman

Ron Haley is walking. And, if he could, well he’d probably fly.

Ron Haley will receive his Bachelor of Arts degree in social work from Northern Kentucky University, Saturday, December 16th. And he’ll be walking for that diploma.

That’ll be a first for the 39-year-old Haley who started as an intern at The Point/Arc in August, doing assessments and helping in career transition.

Ron Haley (Photo by Andy Furman/Point/Arc)

He’s since been offered – and accepted – a part-time teaching position at the Covington-based non-profit organization.

And as for that diploma walk – well, it’ll be his first.

“I received my GED from the Boone County Adult Learning Center in 2003,” the Lubbock, Texas native said. “I didn’t walk then.”

In 2020, he earned his Associate Degree in Health and Human Services from Gateway Community and Technical College in Florence – again, no walk.

But he left with more than a sheepskin at Gateway – he met the man who would eventually change his life – Brandon Releford.

“I have had the opportunity to be an Adjunct Professor at Gateway Community and Technical College for many years in the Education and Human Service Department,” said Releford, the Executive Director of The Zembrodt Education Center at The Point/Arc. “I have met many students who I knew would make a huge impact on our community, but none like Ron Haley.”

Releford said he was teaching a group therapy class at GCTC and shine bright.

“Years later,” Releford said, “Mr. Haley contacted me in need of an internship placement, and I automatically knew that he would be an amazing fit here at The Point/Arc Zembrodt Education Center.”

When he completed his internship, Releford said, “I had the honor of hiring him as one of our Transition Instructors, working with individuals with intellectual and developmental differences.

“Ron hit the ground running,” Releford said, “And provides instruction to students on how to become an entrepreneur.”

Haley says he teaches twice-a-week to 16-to-18-year-olds. “I’ll help with career classes, and teach them how to apply financial skills and run a small business,” he said.

And as for his students – they love him, according to Releford.

How’s that?

“I take medicine for my stuttering,” he said. “I honestly believe it helps me connect with my students. They can relate to me since I have my own disability.”

The Erlanger resident said he worked in finances until he was 28 – then decided to go back to school. “I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and was put on Social Security benefits.”

But he was quick to add, he paid for his schooling through grants and student loans. In fact, he says, he plans to be off his disability in July of 2024.

As for The Point/Arc, Haley calls it, “An amazing place. There’s a need in our population that is overlooked,” he adds, “It’s undervalued; and The Point/Arc is able to recognize what I/DD individuals truly have to offer.”

The Point/Arc also recognized what Ron Haley had to offer.

The Point/Arc was founded in 1972 by a group of parents fighting for the educational rights of their children, who were diagnosed with an intellectual and developmental (I/DD) disability. The mission – to help people with disabilities achieve their highest potential; educationally, socially, residentially and vocationally. More than this, The Point/Arc has been an organization that identifies gaps in services and provides care and support to fill these gaps – even when government funding sources are not available.

The Point/Arc

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