Program helps students with disabilities secure a job post graduation

Nyheem Erwin has been working at one of Drexel University's dining halls, thanks to a program that specifically caters to students with disabilities. After recently graduating from the program, Erwin says his job just keeps getting better every day. In light of National Disabilities Employment Month, more students are encouraged to take advantage of this educational program, just like Erwin.

"It's going really good, and I really love my team," said Erwin. "I'm really making friends!"

The Philadelphia School District has four offsite programs that help students with disabilities get jobs in the real world. Project Search and Project Career Launch help students receive a wide range of lessons that prepare them for the job application process post graduation, and for people like Shellie Dixon, it's the teachers that truly make the difference. 

"It's amazing. I recommend everyone going here because we have respectful teachers," said Dixon. 

Jane Cordero, of the Hill-Freedman World Academy, helped start the program seven years ago, along with the Office of Specialized Services. She says the inspiration to start a program that's so focused on the professional development of students with special needs came after so many families began reaching out and asking for help. 

"They were terrified. They were terrified of what was going to happen once their students left school services, and we started to look into what the outcomes were and found they weren’t great, so we began providing some programming that would support the best outcomes for them," said Cordero. 


The students get lessons on everything from filling out applications, creating resumes, and sending emails. It's a collaborative effort with businesses, like Aramark and St. Christopher's Hospital.

"I am so excited to be part of this end of the work and seeing them leave school services and enter into adulthood as successful young men and women who are able to contribute to society," said Cordero. "The sky is the limit for them. I’m so excited."

Officials with the program say they are always looking for more businesses to collaborate with in the interest of expanding the program to accommodate for more students. Dianne Malley, of the Drexel Autism Institute, says it's simply a win-win. 

"It’s a win for businesses and for the individual with the disability, so the business gets a great employee who often stays years with them and the individual gets employed and moves towards independence," said Malley. 

The Philadelphia School District is accepting applications for the program right now, until December 16th. For more information on how to apply, click here