Even a pandemic can’t stop the progress of students in our Employee Development Services (EDS) program.

In a year unlike any other for the program, this community-integrated employment program was challenged with finding innovative ways to keep job seekers engaged and learning despite a lack of access to many of the community-based experiences they are accustomed to.

One unique opportunity came in November when students had the opportunity to do mock interviews over a live video session with employees from Ernst & Young LLP in Chicago. The mock interviews allowed students to test their skills outside the usual Little City staff they practice with and experience some of the pressure that many feel during the process.

Most importantly, students received honest feedback and were given an interview training manual from the professionals at Ernst & Young to continue sharpening their skills.

“It was a great experience for our folks. They really enjoyed it and got a lot more out of it than they would just practicing with staff they are already comfortable with in the classroom,” said Lori Kane, EDS coordinator. “The most crucial piece was the honest feedback, because without that, you can’t grow.”

While the virtual events helped students grow, EDS was able to restart some hands-on experiences this fall with a monthly volunteer opportunity at Bessie’s Table – a soup kitchen based out of First United Methodist Church in Des Plaines. Participants in the EDS program would help prepare care packages, containers for leftovers and other kitchen needs before people arrived to use the services.

“The hands-on work is such a core piece of our program, and we really need it in order for our folks to be ready for the community jobs they are looking for,” Lori said. “It’s one thing to learn about the skills you need but until you practice them, they don’t become real.”

But with the changes in October to how individuals with disabilities are compensated, contracted work at our Countryside Center has been virtually eliminated – which has quickly led to a wait
list for the EDS program.

With your support today, the EDS program can acquire the funds needed to meet the demand and continue to make life-changing differences for even more students as it once again showed in 2021 through people like Brenda R. despite all the challenges.

At 58 years old, Brenda proved never giving up on dreams can pay off as she landed a community job with the Daily Herald as a paper processor and is learning new skills like navigating the PACE system. She was able to accomplish this because of the support from donors like you!