LEARN Student Jake Shumbo Wins UCP Award

Inspiration Personified: LEARN Student Jake Shumbo Wins UCP Award
Jake Shumbo

 Jake Shumbo has a talent for inspiring and charming everyone he meets. The Colchester resident has become a great advocate for students with disabilities and has been recognized with a prestigious award from UCP of Eastern Connecticut.

On Monday, Oct. 22, UCP honored Shumbo with the Nathaniel C. Bennett Memorial Award, named after a person who strove to make others smile despite his own personal hardships. UCP serves to help people with disabilities such as cerebral palsy to live independently.

Shumbo, 20, is a student in the LEARN Student Support Services Transition Academy. He suffered a traumatic brain injury several years ago that left him with impaired speech and confined to a wheelchair.

LEARN partnered with Colchester Public Schools to create an individualized program for Shumbo at the Transition Academy, which prepares graduate-age students for post-school success in academics, life skills, and the workforce. Shumbo found an environment where he received great care and learned to advocate for himself.

LEARN Student Support Services Assistant Director Sarah Moon and special education teacher Tim Doyle nominated Shumbo for the award. They introduced him at the ceremony, stating that Shumbo is the embodiment of all that the honor represents.

“He inspires all those around him to do and be their best and to live life to its fullest,” Moon and Doyle said. “Despite the many challenges that life may present to him, Jake approaches each day with a positivity, openness, and joy that is palpable.”

In his acceptance speech, Shumbo credited his teachers for helping him to find his voice and helping him to grow as a person and as a student.

“I know and see all of you work tirelessly in this field, have seen many celebrations and milestones and as many or even more challenges,” Shumbo said. “I want to tell you that your efforts are appreciated.”

Shumbo has become a motivational speaker in his own right. His participated in several panels as an advocate for fellow students with disabilities, sharing his story of perseverance and encouraging caregivers and educators to believe in people like him. He always has a smile and joke to tell, leaving his educators in awe of his spirit and determination.

He is undaunted by large crowds. Shumbo was the keynote speaker before more than 500 employees at LEARN’s Convocation ceremony in 2017. This year, State Department of Education Special Education Bureau Chief Brian Klimkiewicz invited Shumbo to speak at the annual Back to School event for over 500 school administrators. He received standing ovations following both speeches.

In addition to thanking LEARN and its special education division, Student Support Services, Shumbo gave his gratitude to UCP for helping to improve the quality of services to people with “different abilities.”

My fellow students and peers who struggle with daily tasks to challenge the system and never give up, we are on the mission to redefine “disabilities” into individual abilities,” Shumbo said. “With persistence and hard work together, we can soar higher than our dreams.”

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