CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — The first eight students have officially graduated from Pierpont Community & Technical College’s PRIDE Academy, a course designed to help prepare people with intellectual disabilities like autism or Down syndrome for a future career.

The program received a $150,000 grant in 2022 and is headed by Darin Walker, the director of the Pierpont Rapid Intellectual Disabilities Education (PRIDE) program. Walker said a large part of the course is simply getting students to become more and more familiar with the unknown and teaching them how to adapt to new and challenging situations.

“I’ve had all of the students and especially all of the parents, at some point during this year, come up to me in tears of pride at how much their kids have changed and developed over the year,” Walker said. “And most of that is just the interaction with their peers.”

Walker’s own daughter, Hannah Walker, was a member of the program’s inaugural graduating class; a full list of the graduates can be found here:

  • Elijah Bailey
  • Breanna Cumberledge
  • Casey Messenger
  • Brennan Ponton
  • Joshua Reinhart
  • Isabella Spencer
  • Hannah Walker
  • Jayla Williams

The program is looking to fill its last few remaining spots for next year. The director of the program, Darin Walker, can be contacted at