2017 Bright Idea
City of Roanoke, VA
January 1, 2017

The Growth Through Opportunity (GTO) cadet program was launched in November 2014. The program is designed for young adults with unique challenges who need assistance gaining valuable social and career experience in a professional setting. Adults with disabilities are often placed in care facilities or with family members, but finding family members who have the ability to care for adults with disabilities can be challenging. Frequently, the need for services outweighs the programs available, placing many on a waitlist, which was the inspiration for the GTO cadet program. Adult participants spend four months volunteering at the Roanoke Police Department receiving career and life skills. Each GTO cadet is given their own uniform and can work at the department for up to 12 hours per week. Officers work with each candidate and their families to hone the volunteer experience specifically for their interests and goals, and cadets participate in this training program with the goal of transitioning into paid employment upon graduation. Cadets are also required to participate in daily physical activity. This helps teach the importance of physical fitness and healthy lifestyles, both important to the cadets as they work toward independence. Since its inception, the program has graduated 12 cadets with an additional nine scheduled to graduate in 2016. Ten of the graduates have secured paid employment, and two now live independently with daily monitoring from their social workers.