Hundreds attended a recent college and career fair for special-needs students at Forest View Education Center in Arlington Heights.
About 30 different colleges and universities participated in the 5th annual Directions college and career fair on Oct. 1, an event held to inform special-needs students and their families about programs available to support them after they graduate from high school.
"We're here to learn," said Dan Podgorny, at the event with his wife and his twin daughters, who have special needs and attend Fremd High School in Palatine.
He said his kids participate in voice, dance and musical theater. Podgorny said he wanted to see what kind of help was available for his daughters once they graduated.
"Our hope is to encourage lifelong learning, no matter who you are or where you're going," said Richard Brown, who represented Triton College at the event. Brown said that Triton offers small-group tutoring, extended testing time and other accommodations for people with special needs.
The event included panel discussions about career-training programs, four-year colleges and universities, life skills training programs and community college options. In addition, post-secondary educational organizations spoke with families and handed out literature about the various programs they provide.
Dan Weidner, District 214 coordinator for career and technical education, said he was pleased with this year's attendance.
"I think we're well over what we have been in past years," he said.
Generally, the event attracts about 400 people a year, explained Krista Paul, the internship coordinator for District 214.
Weidner said it was valuable to have the organizations in one location for parents and their children to discover the opportunities and resources available to them.
Participants included the University of Iowa, Southern Illinois University (SIU), Minnesota Life College, Shepherds College, Elmhurst College, Triton College, Harper College, Lake Forest College and more.
High school districts 211, 214 and 220, St. Viator High School, Harper College participated in the regional event.
Noah Gerding of Minnesota Life College said the school offers an individualized approach in which special-needs students are offered hands-on learning.
Patty Crusius brought her son, Daniel, who attends a local high school, to the event.
"He's a very bright student and he needs extra support," Patty Crusius said of her son, who seemed won over by Southern Illinois University.
"SIU seems pretty comprehensive," Daniel Crusius said.
Mary Schahl, of Elk Grove Village, said she brought her daughter, a senior in District 211, to the event to learn about colleges, life skill programs and job training offerings that could benefit her following graduation.
"They do a very good job," Schahl said of the event.