Barnabas Prep Program graduates 7

Wednesday, May 30, 2018
Pictured is the Barnabas Prep Graduating Class of 2018, along with First-Year students and life residents. In the program’s seven-year existence, it has graduated 85 individuals. Contributed photo

Barnabas Prep offers a college experience

Barnabas Prep graduate Zachary Bennett shared his story in a speech during commencement ceremony in Branson this month. Bennett was previously nonverbal, but after attending Barnabas Prep, he gained the confidence needed to serve as a commencement speaker, completely surprising his parents. Contributed photo

This month, Camp Barnabas graduated seven campers from its Barnabas Prep program.

The two-year, faith-based collegiate program designed for students with special needs, is a uniquely-fashioned living-and-learning experience that helps individuals realize their potential while gently challenging them to become more independent.

The program, located in Branson in a home just off of The Landing, originally began in Purdy, and runs from late August through early May. 

Barnabas Prep Program graduates line up and await to receive their diplomas in a ceremony held this month in Branson. Contributed photo

This year marks the seventh year of the program, which, to-date, has graduated more than 85 individuals.

"This May we celebrated seven graduates," said Andrea Harp, director of marketing for the Camp Barnabas and the Prep Program.

According Harp, all students complete academic and Biblical courses of study, which cover vocational training, professionalism, interviewing skills, resume building, communication and interpersonal skills, and fundamental courses like cooking, laundry, daily hygiene and managing a budget.

The Barnabas Prep Program, a collegiate program in its seventh year of existence of helping individuals with special needs realize their full potential, held a graduation ceremony this month for seven graduates. Contributed photo

As students advance in the program, they are paired with service projects that match their career interests. Some of those intern partnerships have included thrift stores, coffee shops, the library and YMCA, for example.

The program is specifically for students who have:

• Graduated high school or an extended high school program

Barnabas Prep student Laura Owens was one of seven graduates who recently completed the prep program through Camp Barnabas. A graduation ceremony was held in May in Branson, where the program is now based. Owens is pictured with Barnabas CEO Jason Brawner. Contributed photo

• Shown improvement in an independent living situation

• A desire to be at Barnabas Prep for themselves and to personally grow in every aspect of life

"Barnabas Prep offers a true college experience," Harp said. "Along with dorm-style living in our Prep House, students participate in volunteer projects, dances, days at the lake, museum trips and go on hikes. They also go on an annual cruise and plan road trips to Kansas City, Joplin and Silver Dollar City. Students get to visit the Branson Landing, attend Christian concerts, participate in weekly Bible studies, Improv night, Sonic Happy Hour trips, block parties and more." 

Barnabas Prep graduate Zachary Bennett, right, celebrates the receipt of his diploma with Barnabas CEO Jason Brawner. Contributed photo

Prep Student Zachary Bennett was featured in a speech at the ceremony.

"The biggest win of the program was our student speaker, Zachary Bennett," Harp said. "After his brothers left home for college, he became completely nonverbal. This was 10 years ago. After attending Barnabas Prep, Zach gained confidence to serve as this year's commencement speaker. It was a beautiful surprise that brought everyone to tears — including his parents, who had absolutely no idea. He did an amazing job." 

"At Prep, our daughter is valued," said Jeany Franz, a Barnabas Prep parent. "She is loved and accepted as she is, yet gently challenged to step it up as she works to discover His plan for her life, by people who go above and beyond to figure out a way for her to succeed. Who wouldn’t want that for their child?”

For more information about the prep program, people may visit

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