Director Anne Ginnett created Lone Star College-Tomball’s lifePATH program, a four-year college program designed for students with executive function disabilities, four years ago. With only two other similar programs in the country—one at Texas Tech University and one at Landmark University in Vermont—lifePATH strives to give its students a better life, Internship Manager Jim Engelke said.
“A lot of times when students with these disabilities are in special education classes in high school, they’re basically taught to cope. They don’t really learn basic life skills; the only goal is to get them through school,” Engelke said. “lifePATH gives them the tools necessary to succeed beyond just post-secondary education.”
Engelke placed Kennith East, a fourth year lifePATH student, with the city of Tomball’s information technology department for an internship beginning this fall. East is part of lifePATH’s inaugural group of students and is the first intern to be placed in Tomball.
“Before students go out into the community for internships, we provide them with experience here on campus first,” Ginnett said in an Aug. 1 press release. “For example, if a student is interested in marketing, we would give them opportunities to work with departments that may need promotional flyers or other marketing-related things. This process allows us to see their strengths in action and gives us the opportunity to troubleshoot before they intern in the community.”
Engelke said because of the skills students learn through lifePATH, they are given better opportunities to succeed in careers that many would not consider for students with disabilities.
“All too often special needs people are overlooked. We’re not only helping them find better jobs, [but]we’re creating better employees,” Engelke said. “They aren’t disabled; they just have different abilities and think about things in a different way. You put that mind in somebody’s workplace, [and]they can really make a difference.”
lifePATH interns work approximately 10 hours per week and receive course credit for their efforts, Engelke said. The organization also accepts donations on its website.
Any company interested in partnering with lifePATH can contact Engelke at email@example.com.