The Udouj Family
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The Udouj family moved from Florida to Arkansas in 2007. As Gary began his new position in the Fort Smith School District, Tina continued to work remotely for the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. Their eldest son, Isaac, is a senior at the University of Central Arkansas and is currently studying abroad in Thailand, while their youngest son, Miles, is completing his high school education at Southside High School.

Moving to Arkansas presented several challenges to the Udouj family, the first of which included finding adequate services for Miles, who was diagnosed with Autism at a young age, but thanks to a recommendation from a good friend, Kent Jones, Gary and Tina knocked on the doors at Bost first. Their initial goal was simply to acquire services which would prepare Miles for his future, but thanks again to that good friend, Gary soon found himself on the board at Bost. This isn’t the first board that Gary has served on in his lifetime, but it is the best structured, according to Gary, who refers to Bost as a “well-oiled machine” with clearly defined duties and superior organization.

For Gary, being on the board has been a great way to learn about all the services Bost has to offer including Waiver Services and all the different areas Bost serves, such as group homes, mental health, childcare, etc. He was equally impressed by how much families benefit from the services that Bost provides. Family is important to the Udouj’s, and Gary and Tina know just how fortunate they are to have a large family that can provide necessary support for Miles. Unfortunately, some clients lack this type of familial support, and that’s where Bost comes in, acting as that extended family to provide the best care and support their clients need. 

The Udouj’s applied for Waiver Services when they first arrived to the area, in 2007, but Miles was placed on a waiting list and his services were not approved until 2018. Once approved and Bost his provider of choice, Issac, Miles’ older brother, was hired as an aide for Bost, allowing Isaac to work with Miles over the summer. Together, they visited Chick-Fil-A three times a week, attended tennis lessons, and enjoyed other fun activities. Since then, Miles has had many other wonderful aides at Bost to assist him in his daily activities. 

Tina’s position with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission has also been a blessing, with its flexible schedule. With her part-time hours, she can take Miles to school in the mornings and meet him at the bus stop when he comes home. In the event that Miles is ever sick, there is no scheduling crisis. Tina simply stays at home with Miles. 

Additionally, attending Southside High School in the Fort Smith School District has been a great experience for Miles. His classes focus on life skills, academic skills, and work readiness skills. Miles also loves to ride the bus to school each day!

Choosing Bost as their Waiver Provider has greatly benefited the entire Udouj family. With a traditional 9 to 5 job, it’s not always easy for couples or families to slip away, even to conduct the most mundane tasks like grocery shopping, but thanks to the respite care Miles receives in the evening, Gary and Tina are able to spend quality time as a couple. To date, they have taken a Spanish class together, joined a running club, and often enjoy dining out as husband and wife. These seemingly simple activities alleviate stress on the entire family, and the Udouj’s have noticed the difference this type of care has made in all of their lives. 

During the summer, Miles participated in ArTs at Bost and is excited to attend the same program once more when he completes his studies at Southside High School. He is currently enrolled exclusively in Bost’s Waiver Services, and the entire family is active in Developmental Wings, Ainsley’s Angels, yoga lessons, and the Hogeye Half Marathon. Gary first learned about Ainsley’s Angels from Jarret Banks when Banks was scouting Miles’ classroom for potential riders in the chariots. It didn’t take long for Banks to realize Miles would make an excellent rider. Since Miles could power himself, the Udouj’s looked into a tricycle for the race. As soon as they acquired the trike, Miles just took off! Now, they ride almost every day in their neighborhood, and they trail ride on the weekends. In the races, Miles rides a tricycle while Tina and Gary run along beside him. As a family, they are planning to participate in the upcoming 10k Survivor’s Challenge again this year.  

When it comes to the future, the Udouj’s both agree that they want Miles to finish high school first. Then, they plan to look at sheltered or supported employment options. While they have experimented with some options already, mostly on a volunteer basis, they both want to explore every option that might suit Miles the best, because the Udouj’s, like most parents, want to see their child become as independent as possible. That’s not to say that Tina and Gary are ready for the transition from dependent to independent. In fact, they both say they are still a little selfish when it comes to Miles and want to keep him with them for as long as possible. 

When asked what they wished other people knew about Bost, Tina and Gary were quick to reply. First and foremost, Gary wants people to know that all the board members at Bost genuinely CARE about helping the people they serve. Tina, on the other hand, simply wishes more people just knew about Bost and all the services they provide! 

We at Bost are extremely proud of Gary’s new role within the Fort Smith School District. He is now the head of Fort Smith Schools Career and Technology Center, which will open in two years near Fort Chaffee, in the Old Hutchison Shoe building. The center will teach advanced manufacturing, IT, and health sciences. It will also partner with WATC at UAFS so that kids can accrue concurrent credit. Students in the program will attend high school in the morning or afternoon and attend classes at the center the other half of the day with the goal of helping students graduate with both usable skills and a career path for the future. The center itself has a lot in common with Adult Education program, because they both focus on career and technical education with apprenticeship opportunities.  

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