Group helps bridge school to workplace

June 24, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Building Bridges to the Future is a new program that is assisting families in transitioning students with developmental disabilities to the world. Three not for profit organizations are working together to make this happen.

Cameron Riley, 22, just graduated from a special education school called P.A.E.C in Maywood. He is one of the first students to participate in the Building Bridges to the Future program.

Cameron has Down syndrome. He has been working with transition specialist Isaul Castillo from Seguin Services, .

"The main goal is to make sure that when families and students exit the school education system that they have a place to go, some place to connect and that they are not at home with services after high school," said Laura Gonzalez, the assistant vice president of day programs at Seguin Services, one of the partnering organizations.

" We pretty much try to connect with families in their last year of high school to make sure that we can help them advocate for their family member and connect them to services such as government benefits, post secondary education, rec/leisure program and adult agency providers," said Gonzalez.

P.A.E.C Principal Cheryl Wagemann is relief to know that there is a future for her students.

"We need children to be prepared out in the community, we need them to work in the community, we need our children to feel they have worth," said Wagemann.

Parents like Cameron's mother, Lydia, are grateful for this opportunity.

"I was really concerned because my family has worked so hard to get Cameron into the place where he is right now and I was really worried because once he turns 22 there was nothing out there for him. You know and as hard as we've worked he 's come too far just to let him sit at home and let him watch TV all day," said Lydia.

Cameron is now in a work training program at Seguin Services.

"He can continue to learn , he can continue to get exposed to different things, learn new things and he can even get coached for hopefully employment," said Lydia.

In addition to Seguin Services, Park Lawn and Clearbrook are the other partnering organizations in building bridges to the future.


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