Tag Archives: high school high tech

Electronics Recycling Company Partners with Non-Profit Organization to Create Jobs for People with Disabilities

CompuCycle and Easter Seals Greater Houston Join Together for Sustainability Initiative

HOUSTON, TX – (January 29, 2015) – CompuCycle, Houston’s premier electronics recycling company and Easter Seals Greater Houston, the local non-profit organization benefitting individuals in the Greater Houston area living with disabilities, have partnered to provide sustainable employment opportunities and computer proficiency training to citizens with disabilities. jonathan's 2nd paycheck 2

Since this initiative started, CompuCycle has been collecting, auditing and processing all donated products in order to fund a long-term employment program. Through a generous grant from the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, Easter Seals Greater Houston has been able to take their partnership with CompuCycle to the next level with a full-time employee and job coach on site. With less than four months of training through Easter Seals Transition Services, CompuCycle made a full-time hire of Jonathan.

Jonathan started receiving Transition Services at Easter Seals in June of 2014 after graduating from Westside High School. Shortly after joining the transition program, he was offered an internship at CompuCycle, which turned into a full-time job. Jonathan now works as a wire cutter. He cuts wires from computer power supply cords, computer batteries, cell phone batteries, network connection cords, coaxial cables and phone jacks. He then sorts the components cut from the cables into specified bins. Jonathan also performs other duties like disassembling computer fans and removing scrap metal from cell phone and laptop circuits.

Easter Seals Greater Houston CEO, Elise Hough, was thrilled to find a partner in CompuCycle. “Our clients have a difficult time finding employment, and often, an even harder time maintaining these jobs. What’s most exciting for us is that through comprehensive training, our clients will have job skills that aren’t only applicable to their work at CompuCycle, but for the rest of their lives.”

“CompuCycle greatly enjoys working with Easter Seals; the program is truly a win-win for everyone,” said Kelly Hess, President of CompuCycle.  “Corporations can responsibly dispose of equipment that they no longer need, or don’t know what to do with, using CompuCycle, a certified company, to safely refurbish the equipment. Through dropping off these goods with us, these businesses are also simultaneously donating to a terrific initiative, and helping to create jobs for people with disabilities.”

CompuCycle is a R2:2013, OSHAS 18001 and ISO 14001:2004 certified, responsible electronics recycling company providing safe, secure and certified recycling and data destruction to Houstonians.  Easter Seals Greater Houston offers a range of services to infants, adults, and families with disabilities, including employment preparedness and training. For a list of accepted products, please visit the CompuCycle website.

For more information about Easter Seals Greater Houston and its Transition Services, please visit www.eastersealshouston.org or contact Robert Williams at 832-834-4170 or rwilliams@eastersealshouston.org.

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N.A.S.A: It IS Rocket Science

We all know NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the Space City infrastructure of the Johnson nasaSpace Center, but for a moment, I like to pretend that NASA has a new acronym:  Never Assume Someone’s Ability.   This summer, the Easter Seals Greater Houston High School High Tech Program was again honored to have interns working inside the Johnson Space Center alongside college interns, engineers, and even rocket scientists.  After meeting with one High School High Tech Summer Intern, I learned that Matthew’s position was far from most adolescent summer jobs.

Matthew was tasked with developing, testing, and implementing an inter-department network for video conferences.  This system would allow the various programs of NASA to communicate in real-time from distant locations.  In addition, it would be secure from any external eavesdropping to safeguard future works and works-in-progress.  HSHT Coordinator Yvonne Kelly commented that when Matthew first began attending High School High Tech activities, he was a different person—he was shy, barely spoke and refrained from eye contact.  Now, he was sitting up tall in his chair and energetically recalling his NASA job duties.  Matthew’s mother added to this assessment by stating:  “Matthew has really come out of his shell.”  She continued to tell me how the family was uncertain about Matthew’s future—whether he would be able to attend college or even obtain and maintain a job.  Teary-eyed, and with a mother’s sincerity, she thanked High School High Tech for providing Matthew the opportunity to gain exposure, experience, and confidence.

So it is fitting that this summer, NASA, Johnson Space Center welcomes the installment of Space Shuttle Independence which will be permanently displayed atop the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft 747.  I gaze in awe at the shuttle perched upon the much larger 747 and I see Matthew.  I see Matthew propped up by his family, his community, and by this opportunity through the High School High Tech program.  I see Matthew, with his new-found confidence, soaring to his own independence.  I see Matthew and I think:  Never Assume Someone’s Ability.

Charles Martin, High School High Tech, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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Because Practice Does Make Possible!

In honor of Autism Awareness Month and World Autism Awareness Day being celebrated today – “Light It Up Blue“!, Easter Seals Greater Houston is highlighting one of our programs, Social Motion Skills, which has a unique approach to creating independence for children and teens on the Autism spectrum.  One of the services offered through Social Motion Skills is “Drivers Ed At Your Speed”.5342570901105

A driver’s license–a rite of passage for independence, right? Not so fast for high functioning teens with autism who may be brilliant but socially quirky! Driving is full of social cues that may be difficult to pick up on for these students if they are not provided driver’s ed designed the way they learn.  That’s why we created Driver’s Ed at Your Speed!  With autism rates at 1 in 68 children, the need for services is real. While early intervention is gaining attention there is an acute lack of training for young adults. Transition plans from school to work are great, but how are you going to get to work, store, bank, & friend’s house? The answer–Social Motion Skills & Safeway Driving Centers are offering driver’s ed designed for people with learning differences. Targeted education techniques combined with online technology & simulator time provide skill assessments & evaluations. Students & parents have the information they need to make safe decisions before getting behind the wheel.

Driver’s Ed at Your Speed focuses on turning capable drivers with learning differences into safe drivers!  Online technology maximizes the individual learning experience while progress data helps parents make the best decision for their child, especially in something as important as driving.  Presented in a clear, concise manner to accommodate retention, attention spans & learning differences, the program provides extra content to address anxiety, advocacy, emergency situations & car care.internship 1

This program addresses deficits and instills confidence in students who with specialized instruction can achieve life changing independence. Without such specialized support the road dead ends…

John is a teen with autism & significant mechanical/engineering skills.  He works at an auto repair shop & needs a license for insurance purposes to move cars around the shop.  The program enables him to retain employment & live independently.  The scenario is repeated over and over by teens.  According to a survey by Rutgers Center for Advanced Infrastructure, 24% of high functioning adults with autism said they were drivers, vs. 75% of general population.  Enable the capable driver. Enable the job. Enable a life! Put a deserving student in the driver’s seat and on the road to productive independence!

Social Motion Skills breaks down social barriers for teens with autism, ADHD & learning differences. Practice makes possible. Social Motion Skills provides social skill training and enrichment activities for students ages 5-35 with learning differences, ADD/ ADHD and autism spectrum disorders (ASD) including Asperger’s syndrome and PDD-NOS. Social Motion Skills offers a comprehensive learn as you grow approach to social skills through active learning for those who find interacting with the world around them indiscernible, frustrating, mysterious and even a bit scary!

With less than 3% of charitable giving supporting people with disabilities, you can see the value of supporting Social Motion Skills and Easter Seals Greater Houston‘s multiple life changing programs & share in the success of children, teens and adults with disabilities!

Wendy Dawson, Founder – Social Motion Skills, ESGH Board Member

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99 Percent RATE

sms 1560 intern

Thanks Sports Radio 1560!

Did you know that many students with disabilities can function well in high-technology and science related employment, but the challenge is to help high school students with disabilities remain in high school and understand that a productive future is possible for them.  Our High School/High Tech program meets this challenge. Typically, only 56 percent of American students with disabilities graduate from high school. Results for the program have been outstanding: 99 percent of student participants have remained in or graduated from high school, and many have expressed an interest in pursuing post-secondary education or training.  Our graduates are currently enrolled in Rice University, Baylor University, Rochester Institute of Technology, the University of Houston, Houston Community College System, San Jacinto College, and Alvin Community College, to name just a few.According to a recent Foundation Center survey, only 2.9% of grant dollars were directed to programs serving people with disabilities in spite of the fact that the most recent US Census showed that one in five Americans lives with a disability or long-term medical condition. If we assume that the students in our program would drop out without our intervention at the national average dropout rate for students with disabilities, the estimated cost to society for this year’s participants alone would be approximately $40 million over their life times.  With help from organizations & corporations, we have been able to increase the number of students served, but still have a waiting list of schools with students who could truly benefit from our program services.

sms 2013 jeh intern

Thanks John Eagle Honda!

These teens, with all types of disabilities, are highly at risk for dropping out of high school, becoming the victims of abuse or being unfairly limited by other people’s expectations.  In the past ten years, we have served almost 3,000 students, have seen almost 100 succeed in their first job through our internship program and had almost 1,000 students from our program graduate with better skills for their futures.

Our High School High Tech along with our Social Motion Skills staff at Easter Seals Greater Houston is committed to assisting youth with disabilities in making a smooth transition from high school into the work force and secondary education. Social Motions Skills works to break down and de-mystify the social demands children and young adults face every day by reinforcing positive character traits, introducing age-appropriate social skills and activities and practicing real world scenarios until the skill and coping method become more natural — because practice makes possible.  HSHT staff meets with students at schools and facilitates lessons regarding vocational skills such as: work readiness, resume writing, interviewing skills, identifying strengths/weaknesses, and career interests. A major component of the HSHT program is to grant internship opportunities to students that are in tune with their particular interests. The students’ interests have a wide range from a career in welding, to the medical field, military aspirations, graphic design, and etc.

RAMP (Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program) is another career-focused program for teens which serves at risk teens with disabilities via mentoring from individuals in the community. RAMP staff meets with these students at schools and engage in activities surrounding social skills, independent living skills, and work readiness skills. In addition, RAMP youths learn the concept of setting both long-term and short-term goals. A chief element of RAMP is career exploration. Youths have the opportunity to attend field trips for behind-the-scene tours to learn about all the careers within an organization that allow it to function.

And a HUGE thanks to all the companies that made our HSHT and Social Motion Skills summer internship possible!

Dynamic Orthotics, Dr. Thaghadosi , TCH, SER, CVS, Caroline School, University Of Houston, NASA,

1560AM Yahoo Sports Radio, Event Land, CAPS, Hobby lobby, John Eagle Honda, Murder by Book,

CompuCycle, Heights Plant Farm, & Holly Hall Retirement Community.

By Darchel Richards, High School High Tech/Easter Seals Greater Houston

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Our Newest Avril “Rock Stars”!

This past weekend, Easter Seals Grater Houston held its third installment of our teen camp, CamDSCF4708p MOST (Miles of Smiles for Teens) with the help of Randalls Food Market, The Avril Lavigne Foundation and United Way of Greater Houston. It has been such an incredible experience to be a part of the birth of this new opportunity for teenagers. Some of the campers who have attended one of the weekend retreats had been removed from the camp scene for a few years since their graduation from Camp Smiles (our week-long overnight camp) at age 14, so they have loved getting back to camp, seeing old friends and enjoying some teen time.

Camp MOST along with our program, Social Motion Skills, is all about encouraging the teens along in their transition from childhood to adulthood and supporting them through this challenging time of life. High school is tough enough for any teenager, and when you bring a disability into the mix, it adds a whole other dimension to the puzzle. At Camp MOST, the teens find a support group among each other and are able to talk about what it’s like to be a teenager with a disability, how they navigate their high school, and share advice about how to teach and interact with their peers about disabilities in a positive way. In the future, DSCF4551we hope to add an element to camp that touches on transition from high school to post secondary life like our High School High Tech Program – meaning college, employment, vocational school, etc. We want to encourage the teens to become self advocates and learn how to get the most out of their life! We hope to accomplish this by stressing the development of relationships, natural supports, personal expectations, community involvement, social skills and self-determination – all key components of Social Motion Skills.

It’s amazing to watch these campers who once were young nervous little kids, arrive at camp and check themselves in, turn in all of their medication and explain what each of them is for, and explain their own personal care needs to the volunteers. They are really learning to be self advocates and understand how to take responsibility for themselves. I also love watching the campers develop true friendships among one another. They all exchange contact information with each other at camp and many stay in touch and become great friends! They really are each other’s best support because no one knows what it’s like to be in their shoes except for them.  I love that Camp MDSCF4664OST helps the campers find and connect with people who understand them and can relate to their life experiences. Not to mention, it’s a great place for these teens to escape for a weekend and just let loose and have fun!

I hope that Camp MOST continues to grow and encourage teens through their high school years. It is definitely my dream to see some of these campers come back in the future as mentors to the new campers! Between the community support, MOST, Social Motion Skills and High School High Tech, we hope the community sees the importance of giving teens with disabilities a chance – they can excel at school, go on to college and be gainfully employed. We can’t do it without support both monetarily and volunteer based. Please consider making a gift, serving as a volunteer or asking your company to be a host site for our high school program.

Here’s a little taste of the success we see – C has been attending our children’s camp since he was 7 years old.  Every year at our children’s camp, he refused to do the high ropes course.  Now 14, C saw being at teen camp as a rite of passage and as an opportunity to challenge himself and step outside of his comfort zone.  So, C got up to the top of the high ropes course (nearly 3 stories high!), and then flew back down via the zip line.  C screamed and beamed all the way down, and at the end of it exclaimed, “Check it out, I did it!”

By Betsy Keane, Camp Coordinator, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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Give By Using Your Joy

One of the things I love about my job at Easter Seals Greater Houston, is the inspiration the students in our Highschool HighTech Program give me.  Their creativity, their joy and their potential inspire me to try my best to help them beat the odds.  Students with disabilities are much more likely to drop out of school, to be bullied or abused and to wind up needing government assistance later in life – especially if they don’t have people in their lives helping them see their 2012 blog yvonne and the girls fundraiser for blogpotential and helping them gain the skills they need to succeed.

I try to instill these same things in my own children.  At my kids’ school, Darwin Gilmore Elementary, they have enrichment clusters. Students are placed in their cluster based on grade level and interest. They usually get three choices. Every early release day (and a few other mornings) the students spend several hours in their cluster.  I volunteered at my daughter’s school in a cluster where they learned a skill or craft or about things like the rainforest or animals. At the end of the year there is a Cluster Showcase where the students show off what they learned. Some clusters sell their items and can decide to donate the proceeds to a charitable organization.

My daughter’s cluster was called Tulle Time. The girls learned about making tutu’s and hair accessories out of tulle. We spent some time  learning about what a charity is and we discussed different charities. We also discussed what it means to have a disability and learned a little about different types of disabilities (at a kindergarten level).

I was so proud that our cluster choose Easter Seals as our charity. The girls were very excited to have our proceeds donated to Easter Seals Greater Houston and to help kids with disabilities. The tutu’s sold out pretty fast…but that didn’t stop these girls. They made a jar and signs that said “sold out- donations accepted”.

I loved their entrepreneurial spirit, their joy in making something that people loved and that, without hesitation, they decided they wanted to help other children who could use their support.  The $130 they raised is not the biggest gift Easter Seals will get, but I know that it was given with real joy.  I hope they may inspire other people to use their talent and joy to help someone else!

By Yvonne Kelly, High School High Tech Coordinator

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Full Circle

70 years ago – we started in Montrose in an old house at 1415 California (the new and improved home of Legacy) as the school for children with cerebral palsy before the laws changed to allow children with disabilities into the independent school system.  That law changed in 1975, and as a result we became a therapeutic treatment center.  One of my favorite people in the world – Katherine “Ronnie” Kenner, went to the school in the 1950’s and still remains close with us today. Her stories and antics then and now delight me and suffice it to say she was our very first “Ambassador” thanks to the kindness of well-known Houston Chronicle writer Andy Anderson, many of the entertainers (pictured Ronnie and Eddie Arnold and Dinah Shore) from the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo and the much missed Shamrock Hotel.

When I started 17 years ago, we saw our clients in the Infant Program/ Early Intervention in our offices. Parents and caregivers sat in our lobby and waited for their children and as a result got to know the other parents, traded information, gave each other pep talks and created a network.  We – the staff – got to know the families as a whole, remember when children took their 1st step, said their 1st word or graduated – cap and gown included – at 36 months!  Back then we also had Respite Services, Buckaroo day camp and our Adult Program.

Laws changed and our therapists had to start seeing clients in their own “natural setting” – that meant driving to their home, school, or even a local church to see clients. It has its benefits – moms and dads can learn how to help their child with therapy in their natural setting – translated that means they should be able to replicate what the therapist is teaching them and continue on a daily basis – for a much better outcome. I see the benefits – but it also makes me sad…first and foremost we didn’t see kids in the office, get to know the families, our staff in the office shrank from at that time 30 to about 3….(gets kind of lonely in an echoing 1950’s cinder block school building) and our trampolines and larger equipment now went un-used.  So downsizing was a must. Now we are lucky enough to be in a building centrally located in Bellaire with five outreach offices.

So the last 10 years have been incredibly busy, major shares of ups and downs, Enron, Katrina, Ike, and Rita along the way….more than a learning curve… and despite the downs, ESGH has managed to grow every year…the number of clients we serve is always on the rise, their needs are always more desperate, the gaps always seemingly huge…but at the same time – an incredibly dedicated staff, incredible supporters and volunteers, and great new programs along the way to help fill those gaps, help many out of desperation and actually see change in our community.   Camp is bigger and stronger with more kids served, more weeks offered; Play Therapy and our Toy Tech Program went from serving 10 to 800!  Home Of Your Own has been there to see over 170 closings on homes – families in the community, saving money, contributing back and not one of them has been in default; High School High Tech is in four different school districts, served close to 400 teenagers last year and versus the national drop-out rate of close to 50% for teens with disabilities, our is an incredible 1%! 2011 we served 5,500 families 0r over 20,000 individuals.

3 years ago, we opened the Children’s Therapy Program (up to 15 yrs) with physical, occupational and speech therapy in our clinic – so children and their families started coming back to the office, we know all their names again, celebrate in their achievements and consider them part of our family.  About the same time we re-established the Caroline School with the amazing help of Board VP, Elizabeth DeLuca,…more kiddos and school again! Since then we have brought in Social Motion Skills and BridgingApps – both cutting edge programs that we are proud to include in the spectrum of services we offer.  With the census showing 1 in 5 with a disability combined with the aging of the baby boomers…we must continue to be able to serve more and through more innovative cost saving programs.

So as I sit in my office today, as we prepare to move into larger space for both the Caroline School and Children’s Therapy, I am amazed. Amazed at where we were and where we are, amazed that I can tell you the names of pretty much any child that comes in, amazed that their moms and dads come to me and tell me – “I work at Randalls Food Market now, I am so proud to be working for a national sponsor” or “we just raised $3,000 cash for our Walk With Me team…and we think we can do more!” We have now been officially Easter Seals Greater Houston for a 1 ½ years and one of our favorite pictures which is the cover of our brochure is a vintage black and white picture of the house at 1415 California, nurse with seamed stockings on and a “We sell Easter Seals here sign at the door”.   So while the seamed stockings are out of the picture (thank goodness)…..1415 California is alive and well at 4500 Bissonnet – with children running and playing up and down hallways again, Caroline School students will be starting school in a month in their new and improved space, stronger families are being made, stronger children are growing up and Easter Seals is in the forefront.

Kelly Klein, Development Director, ESGH

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Ready to Achieve!

What I like about RAMP is all the staff at Easter Seals Greater Houston. Because they are all nice and they always try to help other people. They have never been disrespectful, they are all kind.  I also like all the field-trips (at Companies like Compucycle)  that they take us to. It’s always about having fun and teamwork and they are always trying their best to help you out if you’re having a problem.  I think I have learned a lot since they came to my class in highschool .

Pat and Erin are probably one of the best ones in your staff. They are fun to learn with, they aren’t boring and they make learning fun. They have a good sense of humor when they teach we all love to learn with them they make RAMP (Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program) fun and we never fuss when they are here.

We learn about the work force and how it will be in real life when we are going to have jobs.  They give us all the tips and knowledge that we need when we get out there in the field.  We already have some good skills so when we get a job we aren’t the ones that are going to be struggling. Thanks to them we would be the ones that are going to be up there.

The field trip that I liked the most so far was Mock Interview Day because we got to meet face to face with all the different types of people that have different jobs.  We got to talk to those people about how their first interview was when they first started working. They gave us tips on what to do when we get are first interview and other things we need for when we will enter the work force.

Pedro is a student in our High School High Tech Program, which is a community-based partnership of parents, educators, rehabilitation professionals and business representatives working together to encourage students with disabilities to explore the fields of science, engineering and technology. Only 56% of students with disabilities graduate from high school. High School/High Tech was developed to address this situation. Most individuals with disabilities have not had the encouragement, role models, access and stimulation to pursue challenging technical careers or courses of study.

Contact Erin Johnson (ejohnson@eastersealshouston.org or 713-838-9050 at Easter Seals Greater Houston for more information or if you are interested in volunteering, hosting a tour, sponsoring a summer internship or introducing at your school.

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Powerful Gifts

I want to share this story because I hope it inspires us all to think beyond our own needs.  For me,  it is harder to care about something, to give to something when I don’t have skin in the game.  However, Mac DeLaup and the John Eagle Honda team seem to be willing and able to do what is not always easy.  They give generously with an eye to the impact of their giving on our clients – not on their business.  In the short year since we met the John Eagle Honda team, they sponsored Care2Spin, Pajama Day, and a Holiday Drive.

We met Mac through a friend of a friend.  Allie Herzog and her indomitable PR team at IntegratePR were working pro bono on Care2Spin and brought Mac into the mix.   Through the creative and strong marketing efforts of IntegratePR and John Eagle Honda, we had amazing coverage-helping raise funds and awareness for Easter Seals Houston.  (In fact, Integrate PR won the prestigious American Marketing Association Crystal Award for Care2Spin (Best PR Campaign and Corporate Citizenship) and for PJ Day (Maverick Marketing award).

Our newest program, Social Motion Skills, www.socialmotionskills.org, provides real life social skills training for children and adolescents with autism, ADHD and other similar neurological disorders.  Social Motion Skills, in collaboration with our High School/High Tech Program, is working to provide summer internships for high school aged students with disabilities.  Many of these students have heard about all that they can not do – but we work hard to focus on their abilities rather than their disabilities.  By finding sites willing to hire a student who may need some accommodation, by providing jobs mentoring, interviewing experience, jobs shadowing and community partners willing to fund the internships – many of the students successfully complete their first ever paid job.

So…back to my friend of a friend, Mac.  Within a few minutes of my sending Mac an email asking if he would consider placing a summer intern at John Eagle Honda – he replied “absolutely.”  I told Mac that we would use grant funds to pay for the student’s internship if he could provide the job site and a mentor.  A few days later, Mac interviewed the young man and offered him the internship.  Mac also said that he would fund the internship so that we could use the grant money to help yet another student.

Easter Seals is so fortunate to have broad community support.  The example of our internships reflects this – it a collaborative effort between parents, Easter Seals, funders and employers.  If you are interested in learning more about funding or providing a job site for one of our interns, please contact ejohnson@eastersealshouston.org.    I am truly grateful for the publicity, for the donations from the DeLaup family and John Eagle Honda, but possibly my favorite gift from Mac was given at the end of the student’s interview. Before the meeting concluded, Mac gave the young man a John Eagle Honda t-shirt and welcomed him to the team.    Because Mac gives with his heart, he knew how much it would mean to a young man to be accepted-just the way he is – as part of a team.    Some gifts are priceless.

Elise Hough,CEO

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