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Local Officials, Business Offer Special Ed. Students a Glimpse Into Their Futures

Disability Mentoring Day allows employers to gain an increased awareness about an overlooked talent pool.

If Bolingbrook Mayor Roger Claar isn't careful, he could be replaced—by a local high student.

Junior Stephen Boden, who said his future interests includes someday becoming the President of the United States, was one of 44 Bolingbrook High School special education students who participated in Disability Mentoring Day Oct. 18.

The one-day program allows employers to gain an increased awareness about an overlooked talent pool. 

 special education teacher Alison Ondracek and job coach Debbie Hayes orchestrated the matches, which afford disabled students greater direction and motivation to pursue their career goals.

Participants included the , , , , Lil Saints of God daycare center, , , , , , and JC Penney in the Fox Valley Mall.

For Boden, it was a great way to see first-hand how local government works.

"I have wanted to go into politics as long as I can remember and have not yet decided if I am more a Republican or a Democrat," Boden said. "History interests me and I am still learning a lot about the leaders from both parties.

"I got to meet the mayor (today) and I want to start by having his job. After that, I will run for a governship and after that probably become a congressman before I maybe get elected as the President."

Boden shadowed Bolingbrook Village Trustee Pat Schanks.

"I’m a news junkie and Stephen impressed me with his knowledge of what’s going on in the world today and his sense of what’s going to happen in the future," Schanks said. "He really struck a chord with me. He will go far."

The idea for Disability Mentoring Day was hatched by Jonathon Young, an associate director of disability outreach in the White House Office of Public Liaison, in 1999.

In its flagship year, only a handful of disabled students participated in the effort.

In subsequent years, the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) took ownership of the program championing the cause as a means to promote disability as a central component of diversity recruitment for a more inclusive workforce.

Today, more than 20,000 students participate in nearly every state in the nation.

Hayes said the program is a great way for the students to gain valuable experience they might not otherwise get.

"They get exposure to what a typical day is like on the job and helps them prepare to enter the work world," she said.

Brenda Lapido, Bolingbrook’s human resources and information technology director, had her hands full mentoring two young men. "This is my fifth year, so I’m familiar with the program. I discuss how HR and IT supports the village. We cover a lot of information about both fields from entry level to being an outside consultant."

Equally important is the program’s ability to instill confidence among students with disabilities. Anthony Moniuszko, a 16-year-old high school student, felt the information he received strengthened his resolve to pursue a career in human resources.

"It's a pretty big field and it's a job where I can help people," he said.

Issac Taylor, 16, partnered with DuPage Township Youth Director Anthony Morelli.

Taylor said he did some career cruising and found his best fit was working with people.

"I went to Japan to promote Christianity on a mission trip with my church (). I kinda already know I’m going to Moody Bible Institute. I’ll probably work with kids," he said.

"Isaac was a good listener and the perfect mentee," Morelli said. "He learned all about the youth programs we run at the township and had some really intriguing ideas. He’s even talking about volunteering with a couple of the programs next summer."

gladisfullmer October 23, 2011 at 06:12 AM
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Jeanne Hall October 24, 2011 at 01:31 PM
College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn has an excellent program for students with special needs. Contact there & find out all about it.
Jeanne Hall October 24, 2011 at 01:33 PM
College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn has an excellent program for students with special needs. Contact there to find out more about it.

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