Murray State student is first graduate of College To Career Experience Program

1,300 Murray State racers received their diplomas and became graduates of Murray State University Saturday. Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear gave the commencement address and received an honorary Doctorate of Public Policy from the university.

While the students walked across that stage for their accomplishments, one student’s first step was also a first step for the state. Blake Hopkins became the first in the state to receive a College to Career Certificate of Completion.

It’s part of a the Comprehensive Transition Program or SHEP Program (Supported Higher Education Project). It allows students with intellectual disabilities to get a higher education apply for Pell grants, KEES money, or federal work study without needing a high school diploma.

Vonda and Gary Hopkins, Blake’s parents, said they’re very proud of him.

“We are just excited. It’s just a blessing. He’s come so far. He’s done so well,” Vonda said.

College Career Experience Program Coordinator Sharon Arant said students in the program take six hours each semester in classes with everyone else.

“It’s a two year program. You want to integrate students with intellectual disabilities into the full campus life and community life,” Arant said.

She said their job is to get them a job when they graduate Murray State. Arant said Blake will be working part-time at the campus gym and hopefully later on get a full-time job somewhere else.

Blake, a South Fulton, Tennessee native, said he’d like to work at a gym in Martin, TN. He said he’s always wanted to go to Murray State.

He said, “getting to know all the staff and everybody else” was his favorite part.

Blake’s parents said they couldn’t feel more blessed to see their son able to walk across that stage and become a lifelong racer.

Only four schools in the state of Kentucky have this program. Arant said there will be 4 students in Murrays’ CTC program this August. For more information on the program, please contact Pam Matlock at

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