A new program put together by the Republican office of the House Administration Committee and George Mason University places students with special needs in internships on Capitol Hill. Students in the program get to work in the office of a congressmember, learning valuable job skills and giving the students high-profile experience that they can use when searching for future jobs.
According to an article on Politico.com, the program began after Mississippi Rep. Gregg Harper, whose son has Fragile X syndrome, started working with the University of Mississippi to develop a special education program for students with disabilities. Through these efforts he learned of Mason LIFE, a program run by George Mason University that provides adults with special needs with a supportive university experience. Harper decided to start a similar program that would allow students to work in the halls of Congress.
Students who participate in the internship program are mentored by a job coach who accompanies them to their work on the Hill. Not only do the students learn practical office skills, but they also obtain additional life skills, like learning how to ride on the Metro, and the results have been easy to see. The article describes one previously shy intern who is now thinking about working with homeless people for her career. She explains that "I want to change peoples lives, thats the No. 1 thing I want to do. I think I could possibly do that by getting a job here. Although the program is slated to end soon, Harper already has plans to expand the program throughout Congress. As he puts it, "Were trying to get them to the point where they can get a job. Not a menial job, but a real job that they actually enjoy and can contribute to the functions of an office."Article Last Modified: 05/06/2010
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