‘After 22 Project’ helps connect adults with developmental disabilities to further education, skills training and employment

CHICAGO (WLS) — For Marquez Jones, 24, and his mother, it’s a bridge to a brighter future.

“It’s life changing. It’s life changing to be able to give him the skills he needs to feel like a part of society,” Jones’ mother Kisha said.

Marquez is part of the reception class of the “After 22 Project”, which aims to connect adults with intellectual disabilities to further education, vocational training and employment.

“I thank God,” Jones said. “Thank you, and I couldn’t do it without you.”

It’s called the After 22 project because that’s the age at which students with intellectual challenges traditionally drop out of the public education system, leaving them with few options for continuing their learning.

“Now we have a plan to get young adults with disabilities in Chicago out of high school and into direct opportunities,” said Rebecca Clark, president and CEO of Anixter Center.

Funding is provided by Special Olympics Children’s Charities, as well as the Anixter Center and Richard J. Daley College, where students in the program will attend classes.

“We decided to create a university experience for people with disabilities,” said Alderman Matt O’Shea, 19th District. “But more than that, we wanted to create opportunities that would eventually allow them to use their skills.”

“We hope we can expand the After 22 program to include more students each year and that this program will be a model for other organizations around the world to emulate,” said Carolyn Daley, president of Special Olympics Chicago.

For Jones, he hopes to one day become a chef.

“It makes me feel like there’s hope for him. There’s a future for him, for him to find a job, a transition,” Kisha said.

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