The Community Supports Department at Access Living includes services and classes that promote the independence of people with disabilities. They are geared toward supporting people with disabilities living in their own home and giving people with disabilities the tools to pursue economic opportunities. Reaching Our Dreams is a class within the Community Supports Department that covers things like balancing a check book, preparing a shopping list, and creating a budget, all fundamentals that are essential to learn for anyone who is ready to live on his or her own. For the past several months, Jason Draper, an Access Living intern, has assisted with the Reaching Our Dreams Class, helping the coordinator of the group prepare materials, equipment, and space for each session. Jason is one of six staff associates, interning with Access Living through a partnership with the Illinois Vocational Rehabilitation Program, which is within the Department of Human Services.
Jason Draper (Back Row-Right) is one of six Access Living Interns who will graduate from the Staff Associate Program later this summer
While in the Community Supports Department, Jason worked with Reaching Our Dreams and did critical outreach to local businesses. He called scores of health clinics in Chicago, asking if they were accessible to people who use wheelchairs. Thankfully, most were. The information Jason gathered about accessibility will be used as part of Access Living’s Information and Referral Database.
Jason, as well as the five other staff associates now with Access Living, will complete his internship at the end of July. Most of them hope to take the employment skills they learned at Access Living, apply them to the Chicago job market, and find full-time work. In preparation for launching a job search, each staff associate participated in mock interviews on Wednesday, June 19. The exercises gave each associate tips for approaching real interviews. Jason hopes to someday land an interview for a job as an attorney. With a degree from Georgia’s Morehouse College, he used to work in case management with public aide, and hopes to someday find a position as an attorney and work on social security issues. No matter where Jason goes and works in the future, he will remember his time at Access Living. Reflecting on his time as a staff associate, in addition to the hands on skills he has learned, he is proud of becoming empowered to assert himself. “I’ve been more vocal for myself and others,” he says.
Good luck to Jason and the other staff associates as they move forward in the future.