NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Hardin Manhein scans and smiles, greets and guides, welcoming guests into Nashville's Country Music Hall of Fame.

But the 29-year-old is impressing crowds far beyond these legendary doors.

Manhein is a graduate of the Next Steps program at Vanderbilt, where students with intellectual and developmental disabilities learn life skills, while studying on-campus alongside traditional students.

He has Asperger's Syndrome, hired part-time four years ago.

"I don't feel like I do have a disability," said Manhein. "I feel just like a normal person. My family can see it, but in this world they don't see me as a person with a disability. They see me as a normal human."

Manhein's supervisor, DeeDee Ogrodny, says Hardin's so good, he went full-time with benefits this summer.

He does every position perfectly," said the senior guest relations manager. "He is great with the guests.  He's always smiling. He's always up--even though he wins every trivia contest every Saturday."

Over the years Next Steps at Vanderbilt has grown from a two-year program to a four-year certificate program.

The goal is for students to learn how to live and work independently -- and ultimately become gainfully employed.

"I feel very grateful that people look up to me and say that I'm a hero for people with disabilities," Manhein added.

"I want to thank my supervisors for giving me the opportunity to work here. Without their support I don't think I could work in this great environment called the Country Music Hall of Fame. I feel like I can do anything. Like I can walk into that world and say here I am."

Next Steps at Vanderbilt, now a model for schools across the country, has 35 students and is currently taking applications.

Next year it will celebrate its 10th anniversary of inclusive higher education in Tennessee.

WSMV.com is now with you on the go! Get the latest news updates and video, 4WARN weather forecast, weather radar, special investigative reports, sports headlines and much more from News4 Nashville.

>> Click/tap here to download our free mobile app. <<


Copyright 2019 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

Locations

Anchor

Tracy Kornet is an award-winning anchor, host and writer. She joined News4 in September 2014.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.