Goodwill Fort Worth gives teens with disabilities training to survive ‘real world’

ARLINGTON -- Taizea Dedner has grown up in Arlington, but says she was really raised in her kitchen.

"I have amazing cooks in my family, and food is something I've always been interested in," says the Arlington Lamar High School senior-to-be.  And she already knows what her post-high school plan is.

"I want to go to TCC to get my business degree, and then after I finish that go to Le Cordon Bleu."

You wouldn't know it from looking at her, but she has a disability that could derail those dreams if she's not careful.

"I have bipolar schizophrenia."

Dealing with that in grade school is hard enough, and dealing with it once she's on her own will be an additional challenge.  That's why she enrolled in "Camp Independence," a free two-week course put on by Goodwill Fort Worth and Texas Workforce Solutions to provide high school upperclassmen in Tarrant and Parker Counties who have disabilities with employment and life skills training, including how to write a resume, how to interview for a job, and how to pay bills.

"School doesn't teach us how to write checks," says Dedner.  "School doesn't teach us a lot of what we need to be in a professional place.  This program helps a lot with it."

"At the very beginning we talk about our personalities; how those fit into a workplace; what kind of a job would be a good fit for us," says Heidi Nielsen, Goodwill Fort Worth's rehabilitation programs manager.  "And we do talk about realistic expectations.  Not everybody is going to be able to drive a car; not everybody may be able to get their own apartment.  But there is some job out there that will fit them."

The camp also offers a chance to get hands-on experience at local businesses, and students with disabilities between the ages of 15 and 22 can get additional job training through Goodwill Fort Worth's Summer Earn & Learn program, a five-week paid internship at a range of participating businesses.

"These kids want a job," says Nielsen.  "They want to go out and they want to be an independent adult."

As much as anything else, the camp teaches students to be confident in what they can do, regardless of what their disabilities are.

"I feel a lot better knowing that I'm not alone," says Dedner.  "Knowing that there's people out here like me that need help, and there's people willing to help us."

For future chefs, or whatever they might become, that's a recipe for success!

Goodwill branches offer free employment and career-development programs for people of all kinds, including military veterans, the homeless, and those with criminal records.  Click here to see what services are available in your area.