Kennesaw State Academy for Inclusive Learning grad built skills for rewarding career

KENNESAW, Ga. | Jun 29, 2022

Because of a chance encounter in a home improvement store, Kennesaw State’s Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth graduate Tyler Crawford has begun a rewarding career in retail.

Tyler Crawford

Before he graduated in May, Crawford worked in the lighting department at a Home Depot near campus three days a week as he finished up his studies at the academy, a program for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Now he works at the store full-time.

“I feel like the most interesting part about it is probably the customers, because I like to help them with whatever kind of problem they have,” Crawford said of his work at Home Depot. “A lot of times I get asked what’s the best item to buy. I may not have the perfect answer all the time.”

Last year, Sarah Cox, an advisor in the academy, noticed a woman in her local Home Depot store working with a young man. She had seen her there before on a previous visit with a young woman with Down syndrome.

“I walked up to her and asked, ‘Are you a job coach?’” Cox said.

The woman, Cindy Hadden, is indeed a job coach. She told Cox about Ken’s Krew, a program named for Ken Langone, a co-founder of Home Depot, who was an early supporter of a career development and advocacy group formed by parents of children with neurodevelopmental disabilities in Philadelphia. Today, Ken’s Krew operates in nine states and 150 Home Depot stores, said Hadden who heads up the program in Georgia.

After that meeting, Cox talked to Crawford about Ken’s Krew, and he was immediately interested in it, in part because of his interest in building renovation.

After interviewing and several weeks of training, Crawford began work at Home Depot. He said he enjoys the work, as well as the people he works with. Crawford’s mother, Sherri Crawford, said she is grateful for the preparation her son received at the academy.

“The academy has not only taught Tyler leadership skills and professionalism, but has also taught him independence and self-advocacy,” Sherri Crawford said. “Being able to live on campus, take college classes, and have an internship/job has allowed him to have the total college experience.”

Academy students receive academic, social and career counseling support, participate in internships and work with peer mentors, KSU students who advise and assist them in their audited classes, as well as encouraging campus social engagement. Kennesaw State’s inclusive post-secondary education program is the oldest and largest in Georgia, launching in 2009. 

Students who complete the two-year academy course of study earn a certificate of social growth and development. Those, like Crawford, who do exceptionally well, qualify to continue and in another two years earn a certificate of advanced leadership and career development.

After graduation Crawford eagerly stepped into his full-time role with Home Depot.

“I’m looking forward to working there a good number of years,” Crawford said.

– Gary Tanner
Photos by David Caselli

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit