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Virginia Sheriffs’ Association
The Voice of Virginia’s Sheriffs & Deputies

First it was Project Lifesaver, then First Step, and now, Sheriff Don Sloan and the Lynchburg Sheriff’s Office are pleased to announce the “Growth Through Opportunity” (GTO) Program is holding its inaugural class consisting of three Cadets (all City residents) here in Lynchburg. The 16 week GTO program engages Cadets with First Responders from local agencies consisting of The Lynchburg Sheriff’s Office, The Lynchburg Police Department, The Lynchburg Fire Department, and the Blue Ridge Regional Jail Authority.

The goal of the GTO Program is to give individuals with disabilities the tools to support themselves, find gainful employment, and prepare them for real life circumstances. GTO unites First Responders and adults with Autism, Down syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and other developmental disabilities to impart job, life and social skills that enhance employability and improve their quality of life, while at the same time providing disabilities training and interaction for first responders.  Current GTO Cadets are individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities that have been diagnosed with Down syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, and others, including two survivors of childhood cancer.

Growth Through Opportunity” has currently conducted 7 GTO Cadet Classes to date, and even though this class is the first for the Lynchburg area, it is number 8 for overall classes that have been held nationwide. A total of 40 Cadets have graduated from the GTO program yielding a 98% graduation rate. Additionally GTO works in conjunction with local Employment Service Providers and has maintained a phenomenal 90% job placement rate for its graduates.

Growth Through Opportunity” conducts intimate class sizes, usually three to six cadets, so cadets can build long-lasting relationships with others and their local first responders. First Responders gain personal and professional firsthand experience of disability awareness, empathy and a better understanding of individuals with these unique challenges so they can better serve this population within our community during future real life events. By doing so, these cadets thrive in their community and are safer, more confident, better connected to the men and women sworn to protect them, empowered, employed, and have an enhanced quality of life.

Here are a few examples of businesses where some of the GTO Cadets have secured employment:
Mission BBQ
City Government
Dollar General
Salem Red Sox minor league baseball
Elevation Church
Five Guys
Movie theatres
School cafeterias

The GTO Cadets are issued specially designed uniforms created by the hosting agency(s). This allows each Cadet to be uniformly dressed and clearly identifiable from the uniform members of the local agencies they are engaged with. There is always a life-coach from the GTO Program on site with the Cadets throughout the duration of the time they spend with each agency. A significant point is that there is NO COST incurred by any of the agencies that participate in this program in monitoring and engaging the Cadets throughout the 16 week program.

The Lynchburg Growth Through Opportunity class began August 14, 2018 and will end with an agency wide graduation ceremony to be held in the Lynchburg Council Chambers on November 30, 2018.

Lynchburg Sheriff GTO
GTO badge signifying participation in the program
Lynchburg Sheriff GTO
L-R: Sheriff, Cadets, Chief Deputy, and GTO Supervisor
Lynchburg Sheriff GTO
Lynchburg Sheriff, Lynchburg Police Department, Lynchburg Fire Department, Blue Ridge Regional Jail, Mayor and Council Members represented at the official ceremony