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AWS and Lutheran Hospital Create Medical Career Academy for Special Needs Students

Ten students from East Allen County Schools (EACS) spent their spring semester in a different educational environment. They were part of the new Medical Career Academy at Lutheran Hospital.

Funded by Indiana's Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program, the Medical Career Academy is a partnership between AWS and Lutheran Hospital. The idea for the Academy stems from VR's desire to encourage people with disabilities to consider more non-traditional jobs and work environments, such as health care.

The Academy offers classroom instruction plus hands-on work. In the classroom, students learn fundamental "life lessons" on coping with change and conflict, motivation and self-esteem, work ethic, leadership and responsibility and financial literacy to help them succeed in the workplace.They also learn how to write a resume and hone their interview skills. After the classroom work, students tryout different jobs in the hospital that are considered traditional work such as cleaning, kitchen tasks and labeling, as well as non-traditional work in computers, warehousing and print production.

"This program is really stretching the students," said Jacqueline McCoy, the AWS coordinator for the program. "Lutheran has done a great job of finding jobs that are both challenging and rewarding for them. They are learning work skills that they can take with them once they graduate from high school."

Carmen Gritzmaker, HR Consultant Volunteer Programs at Lutheran Hospital, agrees. "These students are a great asset to the daily operations of the hospital," she said. "Our partnership with AWS is helping introduce new career opportunities to individuals whose unique talents tend to go underutilized in the workforce."

The Medical Career Academy is slated to run through the end of the 2009 school year.

Founded in 1960, the mission of AWS is to help children and adults with disabilities live as independently as possible, be included in society and function at their maximum potential. AWS annually serves more than 7,000 people throughout Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Missouri.


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