Each year as graduation approached, the prospective graduates of Vaughn High School displayed 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 had disappeared about eight state budget cuts ago. Community colleges take our members but the classes they offer are too "book oriented". We need "hands on" learning! When our members fail again and again in classes, fail to get a job, fail to keep a job and their families expect them to stand on their own, they become demoralized. 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 penney they earn is taken out of the SSI payment. If they qualify they may collect Medicaid in place of private health insurance. Anyone who has Medicaid will tell you that it doesn't cover much and that most doctors won't take Medicaid patients in the state of Illinois because they wait months for payment. 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 are very close to closing 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 eyes and raise money for their next campaign. ( Illinois has just 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. Time will tell how beneficial this will be.)
We are beginning our tenth year. Our dues are $18.00 annually per member but many can't pay it. The expenses for V&FAA have been paid by the four members on the Board of Directors. Lack of funds severely restricts our activities.
We have four trips,three parties, one picnic and six business meetings within our 10 month "year'. Six years ago, we gained tax-exempt status and became a corporation. We have 442
registered members counting the 2014 graduates but technically speaking, every student who has ever graduated from a Chicago Public High School Special Education program is a member.