Easter Seals Delaware & Maryland’s Eastern Shore announces a pilot program aimed at helping high school students with intellectual disabilities gain workplace experience to help them prepare for future employment. The program, being coordinated through Easter Seals’ supported employment specialists, will allow students the opportunity for paid internships at Grotto Pizza, Dover Downs and Christiana Care Health System, thanks to $18,415 in grants from Delaware Foundation Reaching Citizens, the Laffey-McHugh Foundation and Delaware Community Foundation Youth Philanthropy Board. Students with disabilities will be paired with student mentors through a partnership with Best Buddies Delaware.
“While individuals without disabilities may have summer jobs or internships which help prepare them for employment, the same opportunities are rarely available for individuals with disabilities,” said Jane Schuler, director of Supported Employment for Easter Seals. “We are very excited about this pilot internship program and the potential it offers in helping prepare young people with intellectual disabilities for the workplace. In addition, by pairing the students with student mentors identified through our partner, Best Buddies Delaware, we will be able to foster friendships that will last beyond the summer internship.”
Beginning in July, up to nine students with intellectual disabilities, three from each county, will complete a six-week paid internship over the summer. Easter Seals worked with school districts throughout the state to identify high school students set to graduate in 2015 who are interested in gaining work experience. Interns will have the opportunity to rotate through two distinct job positions at the same employer to gain varied experience. Their Best Buddies Delaware mentors will intern with them as a natural support in the workplace.
“Career planning and hands-on work experiences are just as vital for individuals with disabilities to develop goals and aspirations about careers as it is for their typical peers,” Schuler said. “For youth 16 to 19 years old, the employment rate for individuals with disabilities is less than half of the same age non-disabled peer group. Efforts to move young individuals toward employment earlier will hopefully have a positive impact on employment rates over time.”
“Providing one-to-one social opportunities and new workplace experiences for students both with and without intellectual disabilities wraps many Best Buddies initiatives into one experience,” said Anne Chaffin, program supervisor for Best Buddies Delaware. “We look forward to more partner opportunities with Easter Seals.”
Easter Seals has provided Supported Employment services for over 20 years. Employment service options include Supported Employment and Community Experience programs which offer group employment opportunities. Easter Seals Supported Employment services, provided in partnership with the Delaware Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Division of Developmental Disabilities, is an individualized service, matching the interests and abilities of a supported employee with a job in the community.
To learn more about how Easter Seals helps children and adults with disabilities, call 1-800-677-3800 or go to www.de.easterseals.com.