A new facility is providing people with disabilities the life-changing opportunity to pursue career aspirations.
Eyewitness News Anchor Judy Hsu got to see what Aspire Career Academy is all about.
"Three years ago, the facility we're in was completely bare, concrete warehouse, concrete floor cold no windows and it took us three years with a lot of lift from the community and a lot of help from wonderful people to create this dream," said Aspire CEO Jim Kales.
The 10,000 square foot facility gives participants hands-on training in a simulated workspace.
"We provide training in various areas from culinary to fitness and wellness to office tech to hospitality and we often teach soft skills that sometimes go underscored such as social skills and behavioral dynamics and being able to manage coworker relationships," said Herb Washington, vice president of Aspire Kids and Aspire Careers.
Each workspace was chosen based on the needs seen in the community.
"We spent about three years researching where we thought our people our really excel. Where companies needed labor where they had jobs that are high repetition, high turnover jobs and we thought God this would be perfect for some of the people we work with who have autism, Down syndrome or cerebral palsy," Kales said.
So far graduates of the academy are having great success in the real world.
"Right now 90 percent of the people who have completed the career academy have secured jobs in their communities and 94% of them have retained those jobs," Washington said. "We want everyone that can benefit from this real world training to be able to do it,"
With Aspire's Career Academy officially up and running, they're now trying to expand its reach to as many students as possible. If you're interested in helping support this mission, consider donating to Aspire on Tuesday 11/28 to support their Giving Tuesday campaign. Your money will go towards initiatives like scholarship funds for Academy students
Aspire is already planning to expand enrollment with evening programs January 8 2018.
For more information, visit aspirechicago.com/careers.