Jobapalooza helps students with special needs find jobs

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Having a disability doesn't mean you can't work a job, and Monday's Second Annual Jobapalooza event showed local special needs students they too can be a productive member of the workforce.

Twenty-eight local businesses set up booths to show students from Chautauqua and Bay High School what they would be doing if they worked at their company. (WJHG/WECP)

"So often I feel like they're slapped with labels of 'you're incapable,' 'you're not going to be able to do things in the real world, you're just handicapped in that sense, but having these businesses here showing them you can still do tasks, you can still sweep, you can do this - and it just shows them that they're worth something to the community," said Anna Rudek, a student mentor from Bay High School.

Twenty-eight local businesses set up booths to show students from Chautauqua and Bay High School what they would be doing if they worked at their companies.

"They're going to explore jobs, see what their strengths are, and begin to see themselves as a working person," said Cynthia McCauley, the director of Chautauqua School.

Mentors from Bay High School and North Bay Haven walked around with the disabled students and gave them tips on how to nail the job.

"I'll walk around with him, and kind of monitor how he's doing, if he's providing great eye contact, shaking hands, doing the task well, and kind of give a report on his participation," said Rudek.

Mentors say working with special needs students has left a lasting impression on them.

"Mentoring with Chautauqua has completely changed my outlook on, not only the world, but just co-existence as a whole. Getting to develop relationships with these students has completely fulfilled a part of me that I didn't know existed," said Rudek.

Jobapalooza is sponsored by Florida Vocational Rehabilitation and the ARC of Florida.

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