Several Organizations Have Announced a New Program to Provide Education and Employment to People with Developmental Disabilities

Officials stated that a group of local leaders will conduct a pilot program to help build more pathways for young adults with developmental disabilities. 

According to a news release, several individuals and organizations are branding together to help extend educational, employment, and enrichment options for Chicago residents who, are the age of 22, are no longer eligible for special education transition services. Its supporters include Mayor Lori Lightfood, Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th), City Colleges of Chicago, the Lester and Rosalie Anixter Center, and Special Olympics Chicago-Special Children’s Charities.  

The After 22 Project is a comprehensive transition program which is focused on linking participants with postsecondary programs. These include flexible learning possibilities, leadership development, and job skills training. Students can also participate in extracurricular activities, internships, and job possibilities. 

“Far too often, people with disabilities fall through the cracks in our system and are left without access to opportunities to achieve upward mobility. With the After 22 Project, we will be able to create the social safety net they deserve as well as move Chicago one step closer to become the most accessible city in the country.”

Lorif Lightfoot, Mayor of City of Chicago

Students will be helped by Daley College’s Occupational, Life, and Academic Skills program.  

The institution will work with students to determine their degree of interest in order to develop a strategy based on their interests and ability level. According to the news release, without the initiative, students would have had to wait an average of seven years to get funding for such treatments after reaching the age of 22. 

Rebecca Clerk, president and CEO of Anixter Center, which provides day services for individuals with developmental disabilities, believes the After 22 Program will have a long-term impact in the people who use the center. 

“After 22 is the missing piece that equalizes the pathway for young adults with developmental disabilities to access college and thrive, this historic step bridges the gap, creating opportunities for students to secure meaningful work, and positively engage in, and contribute to their communities.”

Rebecca Clerk, Presideny & CEO of Anixter Center

During the initial year, up to 20 students will be served through noncredit job skill development classes. Team members from Daley College and the Anixter Center will collaborate to develop tailored training plans to improve communication tactics, self-advocacy abilities, professionalism, and support navigating institutions, among other workplace skills.  

Students can practice these abilities at the Daley campus’s food pantry, professional wardrobe closet, and other service locations.  

Janine Janosky, President of Daley College, will lead the After 22 program at City Colleges.  

“One of the greatest strengths of Daley City College is our students’ diversity. We welcome all students and look forward to the vibrancy these new students will bring to our campus life.”

Janine Jonasky, President of Daley College

According to the statement, Daley College and the Anixter Center will form an advisory board of corporate executives, students, parents, faculty members, special education professionals, and activists to aid on program creation, extending external connections, and funding sources.  

The Anixter Center will place ten participants in jobs or internships with a community employer who will assist their development and retention. The goal is to weave public and private partnerships together so that students can have a meaningful experience.  

Daley College will eventually create a certificate program for students with disabilities. The program will help City Colleges achieve one of its bigger aims of expanding community access to education. 

Carolyn Daley, president of the Board of Directors of Special Olympics Chicago and Special Children’s Charities, expressed excitement about the organization’s collaboration with Anixter and City Colleges. 

“The After 22 program opens new doors of opportunity for our athletes by empowering them with continuing education, important life and job skills, and a readiness for the future. It is my hope that the After 22 program is an incredible success, and continues to grow throughout the years to come.”

Carolyn Daley, President of the Board of Directors of Special Olympics Chicago and Special Children’s Charities

Information from Chicago Tribune

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Yaren Ay

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