b'included support groups for emotional eating issues. Even though my dream of being a rehab counselor was shattered, the YWCA was an answer to my prayers. I had a job that Meet this years offered childcare, utilized my degree, and provided for us40 Under 40 until I could continue my education. recipients who When Jimmy was eight or nine, we learned he was autistic. He had been previously diagnosed as learning disabled and wasgot their start struggling in school for years. The school transitioned him toat NCCC!the special education class where he excelled. However,because he received such good grades they switched him back to regular classes and he began to fail again. This went back and forth for years until I obtained an advocate who moved him to another school district. Nevertheless, thedamage had been done and attending school was traumat-ic. Most days he would be hiding under the furniture crying when the bus came. It wasnt until one day he came home with a trumpet that everything changed.All of a sudden, he was excited to go to school because he had an incentive. Even though I knew we couldnt afford it, I couldnt tell him no. When Jimmy reached seventh grade, he could no longer adapt due to the sensory overload of changing classes. At that point, I finally had my dream rehab counseling position at Horizon even though I hadnt finished my bachelors degree. He begged me to consider homeschooling him and the next Keyona Dunnday I left my job to do so.Keyona Dunn has been named one of Buffalo Business After the first year of home schooling, Jimmy jumped aheadFirsts 40 Under 40. She attended NCCC and is currentlyfour-years academically. When he was fifteen, I believeda Clinical Associate in the Health Home Department atit would be good for him to socialize with other students. INiagara Falls Memorial Medical Center. She is also the thought back to my experience at NCCC and how supportiveCo-Founder of Highland Clubhouse and Co-Chair ofthey had been. I reached out and the College allowed JimmyCreate a Healthier Niagara Falls Collaborative. Way toto observe a few classes. We began to supplement homekeep making Niagara stronger Keyona!schooling with courses at NCCC for a few years. NCCC notonly encouraged his musical talents, but also helped him feel comfortable in a classroom setting. NCCC laid the foundation for him to be able to graduate from the Berkley School ofMusic with a degree in guitar.During this time, I was able to go back to school to finish my bachelors degree from Empire State College. I also minored in photography and took some creative writing courses. I felt like I had a story to tell. Then I wrote our Christmas miracle story and submitted it to the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. My first story was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Wonder of Christmas.No matter what challenges my son and I faced, we always found ourselves back at NCCC. They provided constant support and helped us both achieve our goals. I felt it wasRyan Kagels important to share my story to let others know theres alwaysRyan Kagels has been named one of Buffalo Businesshope. No matter what circumstances youre facing, you canFirsts 40 Under 40. He attended NCCC and is currently always achieve your dreams with a little bit of faith.the Chief Financial Officer at Counsel Financial*Lori is available for speaking engagements and can beServices. He is also the Co-Owner of two Buffalo emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. * restaurants, NEAT and VICE. Great job Ryan!2019-2020 Connections Magazine7'