New Program Opens Door to Work for Youth with Special Needs

November 30, 2005 | Lehman College

New Program Opens Door to Work for Youth with Special Needs

BRONX, NY — Thanks to a new program offered at Lehman College by the City University of New York, young men and women with special needs are being prepared for a future many thought was impossible—the world of work.

The program, which is called the Youth Transition Demonstration Project, has enrolled 85 Bronx families this semester. The goal of the five-year program is to help students, aged 14-21, achieve the most independence and self-sufficiency possible. Each student receives a variety of training and support.

“A lot of decisions are being made for these young people,” says Bill Tully, who directs the project, “and sometime they’re not given the opportunity to make decisions for themselves.” Tully brings to the program 37 years of experience as a teacher and administrator with the New York City Department of Education.

According to Tully, adolescents with special needs in the Bronx had limited options before this program started. “So many of these parents,” he says, “thought that their children would never work. With this program, we can coordinate valuable funding and other resources and create new opportunities for these students academically, financially and socially.” Participating students were recommended by school coordinators.

The project provides participants with self-advocacy and parent support groups, as well as recreation, physical fitness and socialization activities that help them become accustomed to the different demands they will encounter later on, both in life and in work. The students also receive vocational assessment, benefits counseling and work-based learning.

Currently in its pilot demonstration phase, the program is funded by a grant from the Social Security Administration to the JFK Jr. Institute for Worker Education, which is part of the CUNY Office of Academic Affairs. Six other demonstration projects are taking place around the country.

Lehman students serve as “buddies” to help the participants reach their goals. Lehman senior Jeanne Enders, for instance, is involved in seminars that teach sewing and clothes-painting. “The program is great for the kids, after a week of school and studying,” she says. “They get to do what they want for a change and have a great time.”

Contact: Joseph McElligott/718-960-5746