Welcome to the Winter 2018 issue of MRSCICS Matters, the newsletter of the Midwest Regional Spinal Cord Injury Care System (MRSCICS). In this issue you will read about our move to our new hospital, a new project looking at using exoskeletons, driving, and our new GED program.
Enjoy a sneak peak into this issue, and download the full newsletter below!
Education Does Not Stop After SCI
In a workforce that is ever changing, receiving an education continues to be highly important. Living with a Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) can be a limiting factor in the pursuit of employment, especially for those whose injuries have interrupted their education. Many individuals with SCI hope to find educational development opportunities. However, returning to conventional educational settings while completing therapy is not always a workable option.
Shirley Ryan AbilityLab (SRALab) addresses this issue and supports patients’ educational and professional development through the Shirley Ryan GED program. This program currently holds courses every Wednesday 10am -1pm at 541 N. Fairbanks Ct., Chicago, IL 60611. Classes are free, and English and Spanish options are available, making this program the ideal launch pad to higher education and potential careers. Pamela Capraro, SRALab vocational manager states, “There have been seven graduates so far. Two of these graduates went on to further their education and are now accepted into four-year universities.” Graduation ceremonies are held for graduating classes of two or more to commend students’ hard work and commitment to self-improvement. Two graduates, Leomar Leyva and Charles Winters, have been a beacon of hope for many individuals with SCI, and were recently featured on Chicago’s WGN News for their accomplishments.
We caught up with Leomar to hear about his life after receiving his GED and any advice he has for people with SCI who are seeking to continue their education.
How did you learn about the GED Program at Shirley Ryan Abilitylab?
“I was working out at the fitness center when Pamela approached me and asked was I planning to get my GED. I told her yes, I was in classes paying what seemed like a fortune. Then two months later the program for the classes closed. That is when I reached out to Pamela to inquire about the GED program at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab.”
How did it feel to receive your graduation certificate at the ceremony?
“It was overwhelming, but good. There was so many flashing lights there taking pictures for media coverage. I originally expected it to be short and small. However, I did enjoy myself and felt very proud.”
What did getting your GED mean to you?
“It meant I was going forward in life with a big step. I was making a statement that my physical appearance of being in a wheelchair does not define my intellect or ability in life.”
What are some features about the program that you liked?
“I have known Pamela for six years; she gave me hope that I can be more successful in life.”
What features of the program could be improved to serve people with spinal cord injuries better?
“It can be difficult for people with spinal cord injuries to commute to the vocational rehabilitation center building every Wednesday downtown to study with the volunteers. Pam understands the issue of accessibility for communities farther into the city. That’s why she [is] trying to expand the program by opening another class to focus particularly on Social Studies and Language Arts at Schwab Hospital in Humboldt Park.”
Would you recommend this program to others who qualify?
“Most definitely, I would recommend this program to others. I was able to recruit six other people to join the program after getting my GED. It was easy because I am involved with the sports program at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab and I meet many people. I introduce myself to new friends and pass along the information.”
What do you plan on doing now that you have your GED?
“I have big dreams. One of the volunteers at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab inspired me to pursue a professional career in healthcare after hearing his journey of being a school teacher, to principal to now working as a chiropractor. I want to be in the healthcare field like him and [serve] people as a pharmacy technician.”
The opportunities for self-improvement do not stop after SCI. Education is available and resources such as Shirley Ryan AbilityLab GED program help to ensure that each individuals’ goals are achieved.
For more information about SRALAB GED program, contact Vocational Manager, Pamela Capraro at (312)238-6819 firstname.lastname@example.org