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 Vaughn High School 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 have no plans for their future or have 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 in Illinois.. Community colleges take our members but the classes they offer are too "book oriented" and are basic classes that lead nowhere. We need "hands on" learning! In the L.S.C. meetings the parents would hear about past graduates who were involved in gangs, had been arrested or worse. We wanted to do something to prevent this from happening in the future. So, two parents and a special Ed. teacher from Vaughn High School started the Vaughn Alumni Association,Inc.to act as a buffer during the transition from high school to the "real world" to 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. If they qualify they may collect Medicaid in place of private health insurance. If they are fortuneate enough to have the help of an agency, they MAY receive other services, The agency facet of programs for the disabled became a lottery in 2008 thereby excluding the majority of qualified people. If parents have the money they can start a special needs fund to try to ensure the care of their adult children when they are no longer able to care for them. Families without funds cannot do that. 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 agencies have been forced to close their doors. The nursing homes which house the people on Medicaid have become the dumping grounds for all of the people Illinois no longer serves,i.e. disabled, poor elderly, mentally disabled and mentally ill where the strong prey on the weak and the politicians elected to serve avert their eyesand raise money for their next campaign.( Illinois finally passed a law to allow some patients to opt out of this type of institutionalization. Those seeking to leave the nursing home they are in must be evaluated and must apply to leave. This bill passed in May 2010.) This does not help those who require a great deal of care and certainly doesn't address the lack of living wage jobs available in general and specifically to our members and those like them.
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 !
We accept graduates of all High School Special Education Programs in the Chicago area.
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