NEIU college fair gives special needs students opportunities after graduation

NEIU college fair gives special needs students opportunities after graduation

Benjamin Prentice dreams of becoming a chef, and a local employment and college fair gave him the opportunity to take some steps to make it a reality.

The 16-year-old Victory Village student was one of more than 100 special needs students attending the morning session Wednesday of the fourth annual Disability Employment and College Fair at Allied Services’ Jack & Joan Newman Training Center in Taylor.

The Northeastern Educational Intermediate Unit, Allied Services and the Scranton School District worked together to host the fair, which provides information about post-graduation opportunities and services for 14- to 21-year-old special needs students and their families.

This was Benjamin’s first time attending the fair, and he was thrilled with the information he received on various culinary programs throughout the area — so thrilled that he talked to 17 of the 32-plus vendors at the event.

“It’s amazing,” he said.

“So amazing.”

Joan Murphy, Benjamin’s teacher at the NEIU’s Victory Village program and one of the event’s organizers, worried if the fair’s postponement because of the blizzard two weeks ago would affect attendance, but she was pleased to see the large turnout. Victory Village is a transition program for high school Life Skills students.

Murphy told the eager crowd of students, teachers and parents that the goal of the fair is to help guide each student to as many services as possible.

“Today’s fair is all about you,” she said Wednesday.

The students were then tasked with asking 10 different vendors at least one meaningful question.

Vendors provided information on job opportunities, educational opportunities and services like transportation and group homes.

Gretchen Wintermantel, communications director for the County of Lackawanna Transit System, has represented COLTS at the fair every year since its inception.

She provides students with information on the transportation services that COLTS offers.

“It’s a great chance for these students and parents to see what programs are out there,” she said.

Julie Bialkowski, an enrollment specialist at Penn State Worthington, views her role as a vendor at the fair as a chance to support the community.

“This is our community supporting our most important community members — our students,” she said.

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