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ACC graduate shares his story of pursuing an education with a disability

Deven Yakes is an Alpena Community College graduate with an incredible story.

He was born with Cerebral Palsy and has learned to face many challenges in life. “I was born at 26 weeks premature,” he said. “I had a lot of medical problems. I came home on oxygen. But, I have always been a fighter. I don’t give up that easily.”

He graduated with a high school diploma, Early College Certificate, and 44 college credits through the Alpena Early College Program. As an APS student, an instructional aide was assigned to Yakes through the school district. However, getting an aide for college was a challenge. “I remember being home working on college homework through the pandemic and just having a complete meltdown,” Yakes said. “I kept thinking that I would not be able to get an education and pursue my dream. That is when we decided that we needed to make something work.”

Deven’s grandmother assisted him in school while he was searching for an aide. He then found Self Determination Program offered through the Northeast Michigan Community Mental Health Authority. Having access to an aide changed everything for Deven. “I think it was a lifesaver. To think that, if we didn’t do this, I would not be able to pursue my education.” he said.

Deven has since completed his associates at ACC, and plans to continue his education at Wright State University.  He has become an inspiration to anyone with the courage to pursue a dream. “Persevere and go at it with a smile on your face. Remember that there are people that will support you in your time of need. It’s okay to ask for help.”