Chicago institute helps those with catastrophic injuries get their GEDs

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The current employment market is extremely tight, especially for those who are not fully prepared to compete for jobs. (WLS)

The current employment market is extremely tight, especially for those who are not fully prepared to compete for jobs. The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago is trying to address that issue with a program they just started.

It is a problem they've seen first-hand at the rehabilitation institute as they try to get clients ready to face the world again after a catastrophic injury. They are taking a new approach to preparing people to enter the work-force both physically and intellectually.

At his work-out at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, you can tell Leo Leyva is a determined young man. He's had to be since his life changed a few years ago.

"My injury, it's just, you know, victim of gun violence but survivor of gun violence as well. It's just pretty tough," Leyva says.

So tough that Leo dropped out of Clemente High School after suffering a spinal cord injury and before earning his diploma.

"A few years later, I decided to go to community college to try and get my GED there, but somehow it was so, it took like forever. So then, afterwards, I decided not to go," he says.

Now Leo is back on the road to getting his GED, thanks to a new program at the RIC, designed especially for young people like him.

"Many times it's a stigma thing. You don't want to go back in a wheelchair when you've perhaps been somebody who us seen as a tough guy or somebody strong and virile. So it's a stigmatizing thing for people to go back in a wheelchair and very often they don't," says Pamelda Capraro, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

About six months ago, the Rehabilitation Institute began helping with GED preparation, providing counseling and online classes as well as mentoring sessions with AARP volunteers. Dr. Frederic Robertson is a former police sergeant, educator and is now a chiropractor who works with Leo.

"Well, I've made a new friend that's much more than a textbook descriptive. You tell me how you want to learn and I'll see if I can help you learn it that way and it's become easier," Dr. Robertson says.

It's a self-paced program that's really just getting started, but around here they are already excited about the possibilities for some people who may have otherwise fallen through the cracks.

"My goal is to hopefully get more people in and help them graduate. And then hopefully help them find jobs so that they become economically self-sufficient," Capraro says.

"She actually told me about different people who she met and they were in wheelchairs too and they became successful. When she told me that I was like 'I got to get it done too. I want to be the next successful person,'" says Leyva.

Leo hopes to eventually become a pharmacist. He is a natural athlete who currently helps other RIC clients with their workouts.

This educational assistance is open to anyone with a spinal cord injury who wants to get their GED. You don't have to be a participant in any RIC program.

For more information, visit

To contact Pamela Capraro, Manager, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor email

Related Topics:
educationdisabilitydisability issuesChicago - StreetervilleChicago - Lakeview
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