Finding their future: Young adults with disabilities succeed post pandemic

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) – They say if you love what you do, you never work a day of your life. That’s true for high school graduates with disabilities, thanks to a program called Future Pathways.

The organization helps kids and young adults find their next step and transition into a career after school. That task has become much more difficult because of COVID shut downs.

Still, many young adults are finding their paths.

One of the program clients doing so is Trey Bell.

He spends his days working at the Jefferson County Humane Society, sweeping, cleaning and caring for the cats.

Humane Society President Annie Anderson says he’s a great addition to their team, and helps many of the cats get adopted.

“He loves working with those animals,” Anderson said. “He does videos for us and different tidbits, he helps us with ideas for fundraisers.”

Within the walls of the humane society, Trey says he found his passion.

But life hasn’t always been a breeze.

“When I was a child I always problem getting along with others,” Bell said. “I didn’t have many friends.”

With support from his grandparents and Future Pathways, he says this job changed his life.

“Once I found people who truly understood me, they helped me,” Bell said. “This job is my life.”

“They find ownership in their jobs, it’s their passion. They turn out to be some of the most reliable employees,” said Amanda Lewis.

Lewis is co-owner of Future Pathways. The organization helps guide young adults with disabilities after high school, connecting them with higher education or jobs across the Big Bend.

It’s a need she says has grown during the pandemic.

“COVID really opened up this need for people with disabilities,” Lewis said. “That’s affected a huge population.”

Connor Yeattes is another Future Pathways client. Yeattes works at Cayer Behavioral Group reading to kids. Cayer helps kids with autism and their families navigate life.

“Our kids really strive on structure and they strive on routine, and kind of that consistency,” said behavior analyst Abbye Chappell. “We’ve definitely seen a huge impact of how the school shut downs have really affected our kids.

Chappell says without the structure and consistency of schools, many kids began to regress during the pandemic. That’s why this kind of community support, they say, is more important than ever.

“We’re able to teach their parents how to navigate this world a little bit better,” Chappell said.

As for Trey, a lesson he hopes everyone can learn from his experience is to never give up.

“Don’t let others push you down,” Bell said. “Just keep moving forward no matter what they say.”

Future Pathways has about 20 clients working at jobs across the Big Bend. The organization says they are always looking for more community partners.

Copyright 2021 WCTV. All rights reserved.

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