The History of Vaughn & Friends Alumni Association, Inc.
"What happens to Chicago Public School Special Education Program students after theygraduate?"
Each year as graduation approaches, the prospective graduates of Special Education High Schools display signs of separation anxiety. This school, its staff, their friends and school programs had been their life for the past four to seven years (disabled students are allowed to stay in high school up to their 22nd birthday) I'm sure that every graduate experiences those feelings to some extent but too many of our members had no plans for their future or had unrealistic plans. The very thing that most of our members need is a Trade School- not just job training but the opportunity to develop real marketable skills. Trade Schools are few and far between and the Community colleges that take our members offer only basic remedial classes that lead nowhere. Hands on is how they learn and they want to learn. The trade schools don't exist for them, companies due to societal prejudices are not willing to take the chance on the possibility that they would be wasting their time and money training this group of young adults. Statistics have shown that these young people become the best possible employees.
We wanted to do something to act as a buffer between high school graduation and entering" the real world". So, two parents and a special Ed. teacher from Vaughn High School started the Vaughn Alumni Association,Inc. We provide a place and time to reunite with their friends and discuss the challenges they face and to help them find purpose and direction for their lives. They have much to give the world but the opportunities are few. The majority of our members live at or below the poverty level. The nature of their disabilities will keep them there. The jobs available to them are part-time minimum wage jobs. If they collect Supplemental Security Income, every dollar they earn is taken out of the SSI payment. This monthly check could not possibly provide for housing, transportation, food, clothing, i.e. the necessities of life already. It would be ideal if hey had parental help all of their lives but many don't have it at all and none will have it as they grow older.If they qualify they may collect Medicaid in place of private health insurance. Illinois is now number 51 among the states and D.C. for helping the disabled. In addition, the state of Illinois is deeply in debt and has cut the funding to the very agencies that are needed by the disabled. Hundreds of disabled citizens throughout Illinois are facing dire straits and the charities that once helped these people no longer have funding and are forced to go to the taxpayer who is already feeling over burdoned , to donate more help because their tax dollars are no longer providing it.
We are beginning our fourteeth year as a non-profit charitable organization. Our dues are $20.00 annually per member. We have four special events, three parties, one picnic and six business meetings within our 10 month "year'. Eleven years ago, we gained tax-exempt status and became a corporation. Every student that graduates from Vaughn High School and any person graduating from a Special Education Program within the Chicago area can be a member. To be a member, each must fill out an application, pay $20.00 in dues per year and participate in the meetings, special events and fund-raising.
If you think you are interested in joining us, Please look at our schedule of meetings and come to join us at that meeting as a guest. You can meet the members and decide for yourself if this is for you !
Need help to find necessary services? If you live north of Roosevelt Road in Chicago go to Community Alternatives at http://www.cau.org.
If you live south of Roosevelt Road in Chicago go to Community Service Options at http://www.cso1.org