Berkley nonprofit provides support, job training adults with special needs after high school

A nonprofit in Berkley is making sure adults with special needs continue to get the support they need after they graduate.

"A lot of the students are used to the supports of like teachers and para pros and speech pathologists, all those extra support systems," said Allison Greene, the founder of Our Neighborhood Academy. "Once they graduate or move on to the next part of life or transition, they kind of fall off and they don't have a lot of those supports."

The Academy's goal is to foster independence and allow adults with special needs to explore their full potential.

Programs offered include job training, personal management, and community outings. At the nonprofit on 12 Mile, a children's boutique where participants learn job skills is open to the public. 

"The really improve on their social skills, not only together. They have definitely have built friendships, and they really enjoy their time together," Greene said. "It's awesome seeing them flourish and bloom into who they are."

One of those impacted by Our Neighborhood Academy is Thomas Smith. He visited the nonprofit last year and now comes regularly. Through the program, he has become braver and his world has expanded through the friendships he has made. 

"Now he knows what a friend is," his mother Cindy Smith said. "It's kind of emotional because he, for the first time, really connects with someone."

One of those friends is Raf Morgan-Sherman, another person also benefiting from what the Academy offers. 

"If I'm not doing this, I'm usually just stuck in my room playing video games," he said. 

Morgan-Sherman said it's a space where he feels like he finally fits in.

"I feel like they're like me," he said. 

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