Jordan Collins is feeling a true sense of freedom.
The Gainesville native started taking classes at Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation in February, learning job skills and life skills to move toward a more independent lifestyle. She has spina bifida, a birth defect that means her spinal column didn't close completely.
Collins, 19, returned home this week to celebrate her April 1 birthday and show off her skills.
"It's a great place where people like me can go and learn about life on our own in a college setting," she said, maneuvering her wheelchair to hang clothes in her closet with ease. "I'm learning how to get a job, be on time, sort laundry, cook and even get ready for a driver's test."
Collins, who graduated from North Hall High School in May, heard about the program from a high school guidance counselor. Run by the Georgia Department of Labor, the institute in middle Georgia offers job coaching, vocational evaluations and certificate programs.
In addition, those with physical disabilities can take a driver's education program with behind-the-wheel evaluations, adaptive driving equipment and driving simulators.
"You learn how to adapt, such as using grippers to turn the knobs on an oven so I don't have to lean out of my chair to cook," explained Collins, who was born with spina bifida. "Small things like that are really helpful. It's a great place, and I feel like I started there at the right time."
Most of all, Collins enjoys meeting students from across the state.
"I've had friends in the past who also had disabilities, but not a lot, so it's really great to be around them every day and see and hear what their life is like," she said. "That's probably the best aspect of going down there."
Having a campus atmosphere with a recreation center, pool and gaming stations doesn't hurt either, she added.
"They send out a calendar every month with classes that you can take, such as cooking classes," Collins said. "I'm really interested in doing something in the culinary field, and I enjoy theater, so I'm thinking about joining the drama club, too."
To dad, state Rep. Doug Collins, it's a great way for her to strike out on her own.
"We're so proud of her," he said. "It's a great opportunity not only for Jordan but for young adults across the state to get ready for work and learn productive life skills. The program is a jewel for Georgia, and it's incredible what the students are able to learn there."