Students get chance to explore internship options

August 20, 2009 This summer, some Chicago-area high schools and college students with disabilities were given an opportunity to explore those options.

This unique 10-week IT internship for young students with disabilities with local corporations was a collaboration between Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Development.

Sixteen-year-old Zachary Benson is doing his internship at Deloitte.

"I wipe hard drives, I test them, I make sure all the inventory is right in front, I check it, I check the bags in the storage room, I scan all computers in the system make sure they are all here," Zachary said.

Zachary, a senior at Acacia Academy, has ADHD. This internship has given him a new outlook.

"I learned a lot, like I learned all about teamwork and things like that, and be responsible for all my actions and make sure I'm accountable for everything I have to do," said Zachary.

The IT internship was created last fall. Karen McCullach is the executive director of the chamber's disability work program. She says 18 students have been selected for internships.

"We have students with disabilities who are doing everything from graphic design, like the student who was placed at McDonald's USA out in Oak Brook, to data entry, to all sorts of other IT areas," said McCullach. "One of the other goals is to give students with disabilities the opportunities to actually work at a work site, because we know that once they've experienced that they are more likely to keep moving into whatever career they decide into position of employment."

Deloitte's IT manager Rob Chenoweth is pleased with the program.

"I think that it helps, not only with the job experiences, it also helps with networking with people and that's probably the best thing that Zach has done is being able to talk to a lot of people on the team," Chenoweth said.

From all the positive results, McCullach hopes to continue and expand their internship program.

"I would like to see it funded again. I can't speak for the state, but I would like to see it from lessons learned," said McCullach.

"I want to come back and work for them again," Zachary said.

It is a great opportunity for our future workforce.

If you want more information and to get involved call (312) 494-6713 or go to

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