The Chance of a Lifetime, High School Students with Disabilities

Ask yourself – Why not give these teens a chance? Doesn’t everyone deserve it? All it takes is one hand up and not a hand out.  Can’t we all remember the person in our lives who gave us the one chance that altered our lives? Not to mention…did you know most of our world leaders and CEO’s have some type of learning disability?  Imagine the difference in our lives if Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, who also has dyslexia, hadn’t been given a chance? See 15 CEO’s with Learning Disabilities.

Everywhere you look there are stories about how finding a job in today’s market is becoming more and more difficult.  Imagine how especially difficult it is for a student trying to find his or her first job, especially when that student lacks the confidence in him or herself because of a disability.  And their families and teachers don’t want them to even try or are scared for them to get hurt? Wonder why the dropout rate for teens in high school is over 60%…

This is exactly why it is so important for these students to have the additional practice, and help in preparing for work related experiences and to be exposed to the opportunities that exist.  I think that we would be hard pressed to find anyone who could not use some practice in interviewing, but helping our high school students with disabilities is essential to aiding their success in entering the workforce. 

As we approach our fifth annual Interviewing Skills Workshop, I am excited to watch how much our students will gain from this one day.  Of course we practice sample interview questions throughout the year, but watching the students run through a mock interview with volunteer professionals that they don’t know, there is a noticeable improvement in the students’ confidence and comfort as they go from their first to their third or fourth round.  It seems unlikely, but the students actually like practicing their interviewing skills, and even practice with one another as they wait their turn for their next mock interview.  Obviously, all these teens need is encouragement and a little support. 

The main focus of High School / High Tech is to open a door to a future…whether that is graduating from high school and entering the workforce, or going to a trade school OR attending college when no one thought it was possible. In just a few shorts steps this program can introduce these teens to what is expected at a workplace, what is expected as an employee, the many, many different opportunities that exist and the possibilities you can create for yourself. And, the main focus of the Interviewing Skills Workshop is to teach our students more about interviewing skills. Each year as we finish up the day I am reminded of a few important lessons myself.  First, no matter how many times you go to an interview or interview someone else, it is normal to still be nervous.  Second, it really is generally the best idea to practice something before you do it and not just wing it to see how it goes.  And finally, sometimes things that you think will be torturous, boring and nerve-wracking will turn out to be enjoyable, informative and even fun experiences.  Everyone including the volunteers, teachers, and Easter Seals staff takes something away. Hopefully you will too.

Erin Linskey Johnson, HSHT Program Director, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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