In an effort to inform and inspire a group of students with special needs from Delaware Valley High School and Wallenpaupack Area High School, staff from the Human Resources Center, Inc. recently led the students through educational sessions at WAHS as part of a Community Leadership Day.

Guest speaker, Sheila Leyo spoke to the students about recognizing their strengths and expanding them. A nursing administrator at Julia Ribaudo Extended Care Center in Lake Ariel, Leyo is the mother of four adults whom have had challenges. But, she too, has had challenges in her life, Leyo told the students. Life, she warned, does not come without challenges. Leyo told of one of her sons who had difficulties in school, despite being “very intelligent.” While, her other son hasn’t had such obstacles. Spelling, she said is not one of her strong points. But, she told the students her difficulties with spelling didn’t stop her from living her life and going to college as an adult.

With life experiences, Leyo told the students that it is up to them to realize their potential and go after their goals because, “that’s what life’s about.” Ultimately, she said that choices belong to the individual because each person has to consider their strengths and develop them, despite the skeptics. Leyo told the students to believe, because there are resources to assist them with their difficulties. The students, she said, should take advantage of the tools because they will need them later in life.

Despite being dyslexic, one of Leyo's sons is an Eagle Scout and at the age of 37 is the vice president of a company. Another son, she said had depression, but today he has two children and he is an engineer. As each of her children have their own difficulties, Leyo told the students their futures are up to them, but they need to realize their hardships and work on them. Since each student’s challenges may be different, Leyo advised the students to speak up if they need help. But, she also told the students they have to be responsible for themselves.

Part of the day was meant to show the students that although they may have disabilities, there are careers for them. The Community Integrated Employment Director for Wayne and Pike Counties with the Human Resource Center Inc. Victoria Mavis works with adults and students, where she  introduces them to “competitive employment,” she said.

When she was a child, Mavis wanted to be a doctor. But, because of her disability, her parents told her she couldn’t. Today, Mavis said she wishes that she didn’t listen to her parents, but the difference between then and now is that the world’s perception of people with disabilities wasn’t as open. Even if she had followed through and pursued a medical career, Mavis told the students there are steps to follow, that include getting the appropriate education and experience.  

To bridge between school and the real world, Mavis said the Center works with the students to help with job readiness and transition type information. Communicating with employers in the region, Mavis said the day was meant to provide the students with a, “broader vision from the outside.” By listening to Leyo and speaking with area employers who attended the program, Mavis said the day was a chance to inspire the students to be more proactive.

Every month, Mavis visits the schools, which she said is meant to help the students realize what their skills are, as they move forward and look for entry level jobs. The purpose of the Center's involvement, is that schools don't have the time and or knowledge to properly inform students about entry level jobs. She added, “they don't know, what they don't know.”

During schools hours, the coaches visit with the students, sometimes traveling to area businesses to gain exposure about everyday businesses where they may be able to work. In the past the students have visited GAIT Therapeutic Riding Center in Milford, the Walmart in Matamoras and  Settlers Inn in Hawley.

A few job coaches from HRC worked with the students on job readiness, and one coach, Tammy McClain said the day went well. Also a Coach, Tina Lucy said the day gave the students a “heads up as to what's coming.”

Mavis said the day was a model program, that is currently being worked on to bring schools together. The Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Monroe and Wayne County Office of Behavioral Developmental programs participated in the day too.

At the end of the program, the students listed what they learned from the Community Leadership Day. One girl said, “disabilities doesn't stop us.” While another said, “you have to accomplish stuff to get stuff.” Everyday, one student said, is an interview.

Leyo said the day went well and its important that people don't focus on their disability, instead they should, “capture what you're good at and move forward and bring your disability with you because we all have them.”