When her son Chris expressed interest in working with Project SEARCH, Carol was apprehensive.
“[Chris] first heard about Project SEARCH during a high school counseling meeting. He was excited, but we live in Golden, and the internship is in Aurora,” said Carol.
Project SEARCH is a school-to-work transition program available to youth, age 18 to 21, with Intellectual / Developmental Disabilities who are interested in working and increasing their independence. Since he doesn’t drive, getting Chris too and from his internship at Children’s would place a considerable burden on their family. But then Carol got a call from Via’s Travel Training Coordinator.
“The Travel Training piece was a deciding factor because Via alleviated our concerns about getting him across town Monday through Friday,” Carol recalled. “Via’s Travel Training program has been wonderful!”
Before the internship started, Via’s Travel Training team stepped in. Susan Unger, Via’s Travel Training Coordinator, contacted students that had been accepted to the program to discuss their options and the support they would receive through Via. “She made me feel confident that transportation would not be a problem. It’s scary but talking to Susan about Via’s track record reassured me that this was a good option,” said Carol. “Via removed all the hindrance to our objection to the location.”
Chris was then matched with his Travel Trainer, Brian Burton. Chris’s training with Brian started two months before his first commute. Brian kept the family abreast every step of the way, and he even changed the original route to make the commute more convenient for the family. Even Carol found the service helpfully, tagging along on a few of the trainings to learn the RTD system better. On the first day of the internship, Brian met Chris at Union Station and provided Carol with regular updates, easing any remaining concerns she had. “He was so accommodating, he was wonderful, we were never concerned,” Carol raved. “Brian is an asset to Via, he was just amazing.”
Via worked with other Project SEARCH interns as well – some of whom travel with Chris from work to Union Station. “On Fridays [the interns] have a half day, and they choose to hang out, and they have the freedom to hang out, around downtown Denver; they often go to lunch together. They know when to catch their ride home, it has given them great independence,” shared Carol. “It’s been more than getting to and from work, it’s added to their quality of life, and it has given [Chris] confidence.”
Chris’s family loves to travel and explore new places. When visiting major metropolitan areas, they always use public transit. As Carol recalled growing up in a large city, she noted that suburban kids have no idea what it’s like to have the independence that public transit provides to kids who are raised in cities. “Chris has enjoyed this experience so much. The fact that he’s able to do this by himself, it’s priceless! He now has an accomplishment that mom and dad didn’t help him with and an added confidence that we couldn’t provide him with.”
UPDATE: Via has discontinued its Travel Training program. Visit our Travel Training page to learn about other Travel Training options in the Denver Metro region.