CORNING, N.Y. (WENY) -- Corning Community College is partnering with the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities and the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSPs) for a micro-credential program. A DSP is someone who works with people with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

"[It's] a national organization that provides micro-credentialing for DSPs who work with people with developmental disabilities," said the Commissioner of the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, Kerri Neifeld.

They help those with disabilities to live their life to the fullest. With the program, students can earn credits towards a human services degree as well as participate in short-term training.

"We were working with the National Association for the Direct Support Professionals to be the first SUNY institution to obtain the national credential for that curriculum. That positioned our college to be ready for an amazing opportunity through SUNY and the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities to obtain almost $350,000 of grant funding to support the educational needs of students," said Associate Dean of Instruction for Liberal Arts and Professional Studies Division for CCC, Deborah Beall.

Jamie Ross is one of the students in the micro-credential program. She wanted to pursue a career in helping people because she had family members who were treated differently because of their disabilities.

"I'm hoping that me gaining knowledge, that I can share that with those among me and help me make that change in the community, so all are looked at as equal and not differently," said Ross.

The micro-credential program was made possible by CCC Associate Professor, Eric Smith. Smith was given a Certificate of Appreciation for his hard work, persistence, and grit.

"He pushed through a somewhat arduous process to obtain that national credential for our curriculum. It was his work that he quietly did, expecting nothing in return. It was a wonderful opportunity to surprise him today with the award," said Beall.

Beall also said Smith's work helped pave the way for other SUNY (State University of New York) schools.

"[They looked] at our curriculum that he created, to look at the application he submitted to NADSP, to model what he had done. SUNY was able to, rather than each of those individual schools having to apply separately like we did, the other SUNY schools were able to join in as a consortium, based on the work Smith did," said Beall.

Neifeld said this program will not only benefit CCC students but the community as well.

"I think it provides an opportunity for DSPs to invest in themselves as professionals. These micro-credentials provide an opportunity for DSPs to continue to further their understanding of their work...I think the most important thing it does for people who have developmental disabilities is it gives them staff who really understand how to do their job, feel confident in doing their job, and are better able to work with them to achieve their goals," said Neifeld.

Neifeld added there's a workforce crisis and DSPs are needed across the state in every community.

"Just like many health and human services organizations across the country, we're struggling with a workforce crisis and opportunities like this really show professionals that we are invested in them and their development and why it's a great idea to come work in our system," said Neifeld.

To apply for the micro-credential program to become a direct support professional, or to learn about other program opportunities, click here.