PSJA ISD Program Helps Students With Disabilities Find Emplo

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PHARR -  The Pathway Towards Independence Program allows students with special needs to continue their education.

Through the program, students receive certificates from South Texas College and intern at different job locations.

Irma's Sweete Shoppe manager, Justin Gonzalez, employs one of the program's graduates, Janie Gonzalez.

Justin Gonzalez said, "Janie does more than assemble boxes. Janie walked our crews through her day as she decorates sugar cookies, puts utensils in bags for customers and arranges the cookie display."

Justin Gonzalez wants everyone to give potential employees like Janie a chance.

"They are people and they do have a heart. ... They are just like us. They do need a chance to show what they can do," he explains. "Even though they are different from us. They do have special talents. They can bring to people."

Pathway Towards Independence Program Director Veronica Quintana said she offers the same message.

She wants parents to know there is sometimes more to their children's future. She explains, "Students with disabilities end up sometimes just in the home with nothing else to do. Sometimes parents place them in adult daycare."

NAFT Federal Credit Union Executive Vice President Dora Gonzalez agrees. She employs another program success Noah Veliz.

Veliz is limited in speech, but his actions speak for him.

Dora Gonzalez said Veliz is a new employee. Gonzalez said when training Veliz it only takes a couple of times showing him how to do something before he remembers.

"These young people are teachable and they are eager to learn." Dora Gonzalez said, " I do encourage the community out there and the business owners give them an opportunity."

PSJA I.S.D. organizers said there are 30 students enrolled in the Pathway Towards Independence Program. Their ages range from 18 to 21 years old. Organizers said they hope more businesses get involved helping students learn skills that lead to a rewarding life.


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