DCS to hold community forum on employing those with disabilities

DAVISON — What would the community look like if it were inclusive of those with disabilities? That’s what Davison Community Schools hopes to find out when it holds its second Community Conversation later this month.

The community panel will be live-streamed on DTV’s YouTube channel from 5-7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 19, and officials said it is designed to help come up with ways for the Davison area to create opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

A panel of parents & business owners will discuss strengths of employing individuals with disabilities, ways to overcome barriers and ways to create opportunities for individuals with disabilities in the workplace.

Holly Halabicky, director of student services, said the first community forum was held in 2019 and was something the district planned to do annually, but that didn’t happen in 2020 due to COVID-19.

This year, she said, to maintain safe social distancing, they had to change things up to create a safer atmosphere during the pandemic.

“Typically, for a community conversation, you’d bring members of the community together, face-to-face, and they would be able to sit at tables and have conversations with each other,” said Halabicky. “But, due to COVID- 19, we had to get creative so we’re going to do a live stream on the DTV through our YouTube channel, and it’s going to be a panel discussion.”

She said the panel members selected are a combination of parents of students with special needs, educators and local business owners and/or human resources from companies or businesses.

Halabicky said the group who put the forum together is working toward coming together to develop partnerships between business and school to increase opportunities for employment for people with disabilities and special needs.

The way it will be set up this year is there are six specific questions they will put out to the panel so that they can give input on questions from the various perspectives of being a parent, an educator and being an employer.

“We’ve also got a couple of students that are going to be joining us so we can get that different perspective, and everybody can weigh in,” said Halabicky. “But, at the same time, we want it to be interactive, so we will be having the chatroom monitored so additional questions and/or comments can be passed to the panel for discussion.”

Halabicky said the first time it was done in 2019 the discussion was great. It was held in the Davison Oddfellows hall and about 50 people attended. She said it was a combination of families, students, educators and business people.

She said many great ideas came out of that forum and one of the biggest was employability and being able to create, utilize and find jobs for students with disabilities. Based on those responses from the 2019 forum, she said it guided what this conversation will look like.

“Individuals with disabilities can cover many things: anything from somebody with a reading disability, physically impaired or cognitively impaired – it’s just a huge range,” said Halabicky. “We’re looking to really build on the fact we think everybody has something to contribute to the community and how we go about doing that.”

She said the questions that will be posed this year for the panel include:

1.) As parent of a child with a disability, what goals do you have for your child as an adult?

2.) What universal employment skills do members of our community need to be successful? What kind of skills do young people need to be a contributing member?

3.) What are the strengths people with disabilities can bring to the work force?

4.) How do we connect future employees with the job?

Halabicky said the panel will include Anne Haley, director of the Autism Report and Research Center; Don Haley, the owner Italia Gardens; Alan Ryckman, the owner of Community Threads; and Chris Graff of Hank Graff Chevrolet.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to do this again,” she said. “We’re going to kick it off with a former student who will talk about her journey after high school and the job she’s had for two years and she’s now back at Mott Community College to get her certifications in an automotive job.”

DTV will be broadcasting live from the Davison High School auditorium with Halabicky acting as moderator and Verle Gilbert, principal of Hahn Intermediate School, will also be working on the forum.

She said Gilbert was instrumental in planning the forum and he’ll be monitoring the chat room and passing questions along to the panel.

“I encourage people to tune in. I think it really applies to everyone,” said Halabicky. “I have talked to businesses and they’re all looking for good employees, so this really applies to everyone in community.”

The community is invited to join and share ideas and questions in a moderated, virtual chat.

The event will be live-streamed on the DTV YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/ user/DavisonDTV/live