Anna Lee Thomas with Aubie

Athens High School senior Anna Lee Thomas stands with Auburn University mascot Aubie. Thomas is the first Athens High School senior to be accepted into Auburn's EAGLES program for students with intellectual disabilities.

Athens High School senior Anna Lee Thomas has become the first Athens SOAR (Specialized Opportunities for Adolescent Readiness) student to be accepted into the EAGLES Program at Auburn University, beginning in fall 2021.

The EAGLES Program is a comprehensive transition program for students with intellectual disabilities. EAGLES stands for Education to Accomplish Growth in Life Experiences for Success and is part of the Department of Special Education, Rehabilitation and Counseling at Auburn. Anna Lee was selected from a competitive group of 31 applicants for one of only six spaces in the program.

According to the Auburn University website, through either a two-year or four-year residential program, EAGLES students work to become contributing members of society by combining university classes, on- and off-campus employment, volunteer experiences and on-campus collaborations. The program is comprised of five major components: Academic Enrichment, Independent Living, Employment Preparation, Interpersonal Skill Development, and Health and Wellness.

Anna Lee is the daughter of Rhonda and Jason Thomas of Athens. The Thomas family never dreamed that Anna Lee would be able to go to college, much less a Division I SEC school like Auburn.

“We are so excited that the Auburn legacy lives on in our family,” said Rhonda Thomas. “This is such a blessing for her and one that many of us, family and friends have prayed would happen. God has heard our prayers and desires of her heart. He has answered our prayers. To say we are thrilled is an understatement.

“Thank you to everyone that has played a part in her education and to those who wrote letters of recommendation. From the bottom of our hearts, we are grateful for each of you. We are excited for this next chapter for her life and for Anna Lee to get to experience the Auburn family.”

From the time she was a small child, Anna Lee told her parents that she wanted to go to college, and not just any college. Anna Lee wanted to go to Auburn. Her parents never told her she would not be able to go, only that she needed to work hard, do her best, let her light shine and wait to see what could happen. And so that is exactly what Anna Lee did.

Her accomplishments include: Beta Club, National Honor Society, Rho Kappa National Social Studies Honor Society, Golden Eagles marching band member, Student Council Association, Student Council Home Room Representative, class favorites, Top Eagle Award and A honor roll.

Anna Lee is also an active member of Pi Beta Sigma Sorority and the Athens First United Methodist Church youth group.

“This is the rewarding part of the job when we get to see all of the goals and expectations we have had for a student become a reality,” said Athens City Schools (ACS) Exceptional Services Coordinator Dr. Jessica Lynn. “Anna Lee, with the incredible support of her parents, teachers, and support staff, has shown us that if we hold our expectations high, students will meet those expectations and even surpass them. I have learned so much from this amazing young lady throughout her years at Athens and consider it an honor to have her represent our district and community in the EAGLES program at Auburn University.”

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