Welcome to the August l 2018 issue of the monthly newsletter produced by the Union EDGE Program. Volume 1 | Issue 4
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EDGE News: The Union EDGE Program Monthly Newsletter

In This Issue

EDGE Program

Employment training
Daily living skills
Godly focus
Educational enrichment
Union University

Revisiting our Mission

This is the time of year when we like to revisit our mission.  It may not seem very exciting to some, but for our team, it is a great reminder of why we do what we do.  In the above section, we lay out the acronym of what EDGE is.  If you will notice, the very first point is employment training.  At the end of the two years spent with us, it is our goal that each student will be working a minimum of 2o hours per week, in an area that they enjoy.  In the United States for adults ages 21-64 with disabilities the employment rate is 36.2% .  In the state of Tennessee, that rate is 31.4%.  Here at the EDGE Program we want to be a difference maker.  For our first cohort, our employment rate is 71% after one year.  We have been blessed with a great team of dedicated professionals and employers who want to be a part of our team.  If you are an employer and feel that you want to be a part of this mission, please contact our new Assistant Director and Employment Coordinator, Andrew Blackard at 731/661-5247.  Our goal is 100% employment for every student, every year. 


“I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Thy works, and my soul knows it very well."
Psalms 139:14

Observations from the EDGE


The Union EDGE Program is pleased to announce and welcome our newest team member, assistant director Andrew Blackard.  Andrew graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education with a Health Endorsement from Union in December of 2015.  Andrew grew up in Memphis, but currently lives in Indianapolis and serves as a traveling Leadership Consultant for ATO National Fraternity. In this position  he has worked with undergraduate students within the fraternity to help achieve the chapter goals.   He has a love of soccer and coaching.   He will live on campus to serve our students in the evening and weekend time periods. Andrew officially began working for us on July 9th.  I believe he will be a great addition to our team and help us continue to serve our students well.         



In the News

New Gym Created To Help People With Special Needs Stay Fit

by Tanisha Thomas, The Columbus Dispatch/TNS | July 20, 2018


Peggy Mills, second from right, oversees a workout at UFIT, a Dublin, Ohio fitness center that provides people with disabilities the opportunity to workout in a gym that is adaptable for them. (Fred Squillante/The Columbus Dispatch/TNS)


COLUMBUS, Ohio — During 25 years as an adapted physical education teacher, Peggy Mills noticed that when her students with disabilities graduated from school and entered adulthood it was difficult for them to find a place to work out.

“There is not much out there afterwards to help them become healthy,” she said.

The scarcity motivated her to launch a three-week fitness program last year at Training Grounds, a local gym.

The program, called Unique Fitness and Individualized Training (UFIT), was created to help people with neurological, developmental or physical challenges stay fit. Beginning with seven people, it quickly grew to more than 20, prompting Mills to look for a larger space.

In March, with the help of her husband, Tim, Mills opened her own gym in Dublin, a Columbus suburb.

While some gyms have programs for people with disabilities, Mills said hers is the only one in the area that caters to their specific fitness needs.

Obesity rates for adults with disabilities are 58 percent higher than for adults without disabilities, and 38 percent higher for children with disabilities than for children without disabilities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Inactivity due to limited access to adapted gyms or recreational opportunities contributes to the obesity rate, said John Wysocki, vice president of sports and programs for Special Olympics Ohio.

“Focusing on their health and wellness helps people with disabilities build muscle and endurance while also building social relationships with people,” Wysocki said.

Mills said her gym follows a three-prong approach — customization, empowerment and visual training — and offers special equipment, adapted exercises and specialized instruction to meet everyone’s unique needs and interests.

For example, the use of a “visual fitness board,” allows people to select different exercises for their workout, she said.

Since most clients are visual learners, Mills said, the board helps clients gain confidence because they come in already knowing what to do. In a more traditional gym, by comparison, clients might become confused because they’re not shown what to do, she added.

“It’s comfortable here and not overwhelming like regular gyms,” she said.

Mills didn’t start working with people with disabilities until 1990 when a Dublin school administrator asked her to incorporate their needs into her gym classes.

At first she refused. “I felt like I didn’t know enough to train them,” she said.

However, after teaching a class of eight students, Mills said she became hooked. She pursued a master’s degree in adapted physical education at Ohio State University and became a certified personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

Lori Reynolds of Dublin credits UFIT for helping her 15-year-old son, Jack — who has autism and tetralogy of fallot, a complex birth defect that affects normal blood flow through the heart — continue to stay fit.

“Because of this program, he is a lot more willing to try new things,” she said, adding that it has also helped him gain a sense of confidence and perseverance.

Lindsay Gantzer, 36, of Dublin, who has Down syndrome, works out and volunteers at the gym because it makes her feel like she is a part of the community.

Gantzer said Mills was her physical education teacher in elementary school, and she loves how Mills makes workouts both challenging and fun.

“This gym has become a part of me,” Gantzer said.

© 2018 The Columbus Dispatch
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC



Dates to Remember
EDGE Orientation          August 15-16
Welcome Week               August 17-20
Labor Day                        September 3
Fall Break                         October 11-12

The Royal Ball is on!!!!
It is with great enthusiasm that we announce the Royal Ball is returning for a third year at The Barn at Snider Farms.  Please reserve Thursday, March 21st for this most special event.  This is a special needs prom for high school students in the West Tennessee area.  We thank Mr. and Mrs. Karl Snider for once again donating their venue for this very special event.  Look for more information in the coming months!!!


Our Fundraising Efforts Continue

We are so grateful to each donor who has so graciously given to the Union EDGE Program.    We are pleased to announce that we have raised our $118,000 that is required to be a self-sustaining program.  All funds raised from this point forward will be totally dedicated to special projects and student scholarships. If you would like to be a part of our Benefactor List, you may donate in one of two ways.  You may mail your donation to the attention of Jennifer Graves, The Union EDGE Program, 1050 Union University Drive, Jackson, Tennessee  38305, or you may donate online at  We thank you for your gifts.

About Our Program

The Union EDGE Program will begin accepting applications for the 2018-2019 year on October 1 and will accept applications for the until February 15, 2018.  EDGE will accept ten students into its fourth cohort. Each semester, students will audit two regular college courses with traditionally enrolled students. In addition, students will be enrolled in two EDGE Life Skills courses that will concentrate on employability, technology, and independent living skills. Students will participate in on-campus internships during year one, and year two will feature off-campus internships.

These students will each pay $15,500 intuition. As the only residential PSE program in the state, Union EDGE students may also incur additional room and board fees. Students will have the option to live on campus or with their families.

If you know of families that might be interested in the Union EDGE program, please invite them to visit our website at Prospective families will find a printable application as well as a great deal of information about our program. Interested parties may also contact Jennifer Graves, program director, at 731.661.5382 or by emailing

The Union EDGE Program
School of Education  |  Union University
1050 Union University Drive  |  Jackson, Tennessee 38305  |  731.661.5382  |

Copyright © 2018 EDGE Program at Union University, All rights reserved.

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