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SDAP helps teach job skills

Shakeria Waugh learned social skills. But, mentor Mariah Wilson learned an equally valuable lesson — she was wrong about Shakeria.

Shakeria, 12, has Down syndrome and speech impairment, disabilities Wilson thought would hinder Shakeria more than they did.

“I went in judging and thinking kids with Down syndrome could not read or were ignorant, which they are not,” Wilson said. “They are just as smart, it just takes them longer.”

Wilson and Shakeria met three weeks ago at the annual Selma Disabilities Supported Employment, Training and Transition program at the Selma Disability Advocacy Program, SDAP.

The 20 participants, and seven mentors learned to fill out job applications, create resumes, proper behaviors for places of employment and professional attire.

Students completed a final project analyzing their chosen career field.

Shakeria researched cosmetology. She found the job requires a two-year degree from a technical school and average salaries are $50,000.

“I learned that I can be a good hairdresser,” Shakeria said. “I want to fix other people’s hair.”

Although employment-based lessons occupied most of the program time, Wilson also reviewed math skills with Shakeria, such as one plus zero equals one.

“It felt good knowing that she knew anything plus zero is that number,” Wilson said. “I felt like we made some step of accomplishment.”

Wilson also helped Shakeria overcome her shyness.

“When I first came here and met her, she would not talk to me,” Wilson said. “That makes me proud to know I had some impact.”

SDAP opened 10 years ago to serve children with special needs, but has grown to offer programs for disadvantaged people of all ages.

“The main thing that this program is able to offer these children is self-confidence and to believe in yourself, that you can do anything,” said Carolyn Bates, founder of SDAP.

All programs are offered at no cost to participants, because of grants from the Alabama Council for Developmental Disabilities, which promotes education for Alabama’s citizens with developmental disabilities and their families.