Since being at PC, Fleck has found out that she specifically wants to work with students with autism. And Fleck is well on her way: She was recently accepted to the special education program at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College. According to US News and World Report, it’s the highest-ranked special education program in the country.
Follow Your Heart
Fleck first worked with autistic children in the fall semester of her sophomore year. As part of her education major, she observed and assisted the teacher in an autistic 4K classroom at M. S. Bailey Child Development Center three days a week.
“I knew within moments that is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” Fleck said.
“During instructional time, you could see the amount of effort these students put into learning regardless of the obstacles that they face on a daily basis. I wanted to be that person who would help these students be successful and not looked over in their educational pursuits and also in their everyday lives outside of the classroom. I wanted to be that difference.”
Working with autistic children inspired Fleck to research autism for her senior project at PC. Fleck interviewed millennial parents of autistic children to gauge their understanding of the disorder and how they can be better informed.
Ready for Grad School
Fleck is looking forward to learning more about how she can serve the needs of autistic children. She said that PC has prepared her for graduate school.
“PC prepared me for Vanderbilt by pushing me to do my best in and out of the classroom,” Fleck said. “I had constant support from my professors, whose dedication to teaching allowed me to develop a better work ethic so one day I can make that kind of impact on students.”
Fleck said that hearing about her professors’ experience inside the classroom has helped her understand how she can be the best teacher she can be. Her professors were always willing to talk to her about school or life.
“They really instilled in me the core values that one needs to be in the public school system and how it is crucial to live a life where that kind of caring heart and professionalism is shown every day,” Fleck said. “Your students look up to, they love you, and it is important to be that positive role model for them everywhere, every day.”
Fleck began living the PC motto, “While we live, we serve,” even before she became a PC student. She started volunteering with PC’s annual Special Olympics event when she was in the ninth grade at Laurens District 55 High School. She’s volunteered every year since then and also volunteers with adults with special needs at the Laurens Y.
Last April, Fleck took the initiative to raise awareness for autism in honor of Autism Awareness Month. She hosted a walk on the PC campus and turned the fountain in the middle of the campus blue to make the campus community aware of issues affecting children with autism. In addition, she invited those from the Laurens County community to a ceremony to learn more about autism.