Fifteen DPS special needs students are treated to Opening Day

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    Opening Day_with_Robert_Ficano_webIt was unforgettable. They danced and helped cheer the Detroit Tigers to an exciting Opening Day victory against the Boston Red Sox.

    “It’s nice, really nice,” said Corey Reed, 21, a DPS student, sitting in the Wayne County suite on Opening Day. 

    Reed and 14 of his classmates were guests of Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano. 

    The students, who have physical and developmental disabilities, are part of a Detroit Public Schools program called Project Search that places students in professional workplace settings for their senior year.

    Wayne County sponsored 15 students last September. They have been working in 10 departments in the county, doing things like filing, data entry, mail distribution and other tasks. 

    “Opening Day, especially your first, is a memorable event,” said Ficano, who visited the suite, talking to the students and watching the ballgame. “These students are great and have worked hard this year at the county. I thought this was a nice way to say thank you.”

    The students were treated to pizza, hot dogs, baked chicken, popcorn, brownies, chocolate chip cookies and soda.

    Chantell Donwell, 21, who is assigned to the Wayne County Commission where she delivers mail and helps with other office work, was eating popcorn and watching the ballgame, her first ever. 

    “This is fun, I’m enjoying myself,” she said. “I’ve never done something like this.”

    There are 17,543 students with development disabilities in the Detroit Public Schools.

    According to the Arc, a national organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, nearly 80 percent of the developmentally disabled population is unemployed, which underscores the importance of a skill building and work-force development program like Project Search. 

    Shannon Person is a teacher with Project Search. 

    “I think this was good for the kids,” she said. “They’ve worked really hard this year, they deserved this, this is their reward. For some of them, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

    Justin Gayle, 21, worked in the communication office at the county doing clerical work and data entry assignments. He had a perpetual smile on his face all day. “This is nice. It’s like you are famous,” he said.

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