SPRINGFIELD — Pathlight, a provider of residential and community services for people with intellectual disabilities and autism, named behavior specialist Erika Gleason as the first recipient of its Donald Fletcher Scholarship.
The $5,000 scholarship, which will be awarded yearly, is meant to assist an employee in obtaining an undergraduate degree. A committee of Pathlight board members and staff made the selection after receiving applications from employees. The scholarship is named after Pathlight’s former Executive Director Donald Fletcher, who was committed to helping staff pursue their education. This scholarship is in addition to Pathlight’s current tuition-reimbursement program.
“We are so proud to be able to support our employees in their education,” said Pathlight Executive Director Ruth Banta, who announced the award on April 3 at a company gathering. “We know that the key to a better life for people with disabilities is a well-supported staff, and this scholarship is one way we can show that support.”
Gleason started at Pathlight in 2013 as a direct support professional, supporting people with intellectual disabilities and intensive behavioral needs. Although she had not dealt with people with behavioral issues before, Gleason said it was easy to “see past the negative.”
With her positive attitude and dedication, Gleason quickly moved up the Pathlight career ladder, becoming a behavioral specialist this year. In her new role, she is responsible for checking in with all of Pathlight’s residential homes, as well as conducting safety-training sessions that teach people how to support individuals with special needs.
Gleason said the essence of her role as a behavioral specialist is “all about ensuring that the people we serve are living a quality life, and are given the chance to be active members in their communities.”
She is currently working toward an associate’s degree in psychology at Holyoke Community College. Her goal is to transfer to Westfield State University, where she hopes to earn her bachelor’s degree.