Dream Big Career Camp Finishes Third Successful Summer

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Extracting strawberry DNA at Bayer, touring the F-18 production line at Boeing, learning about the science of pet food at Nestle Purina – these are just a few of the adventures students embarked upon during Dream Big Career Camp 2019.

All three of the week-long career camps featured a full slate of immersive field trips, hands-on activities, networking opportunities, classroom study, journaling and reflection.

Other popular activities from this year’s career camps included a game design workshop at Riot Games, software development exercises and informational presentations at LaunchCode, a trip to the claims center at Centene, touring the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and a visit to the Metro’s maintenance facility.

Each camp followed its own theme. Week one, June 3-7 focused on careers in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. Trade and technical careers took the spotlight in week two, June 24-28. The third and final week, July 8-12 showcased a variety of professions for students serious about pursuing competitive employment but uncertain about which path to take.

A total of 13 of our Corporate Partners and 18 high school students with disabilities participated in Dream Big Career Camp 2019. Students with attention deficit disorder, autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy discovered educational opportunities and professional possibilities they never knew existed.

Additionally, the Career Camp curriculum taught them important aspects of disability history and culture, college preparedness, independent living, financial literacy, self-advocacy and the power of harnessing one’s disability as a source of strength.

Students reported coming away with a much greater understanding and appreciation for the vast number of people it takes to run a successful corporation. They were surprised and intrigued by the various educational paths and career possibilities they hadn’t previously considered. They also gained a new perspective on what it means to live independently as a disabled individual.

Annie Donnell and Dylan Farmer, recent college graduates and past participants in Dream Big, were added to the mix this year as camp correspondents, chronicling all the goings-on in their daily blog posts. Eric Kaiser, another past Dream Big camper and current student at Maryville University, also came back this year as a camp counselor.

An integral part of Dream Big since its inception as a pilot, Youth Transition Coordinator Sarah Schwegel has watched it evolve from an ambitious idea to a flourishing, multifaceted resource for students.

“The growth has been incredible,” Sarah says. “Thinking back to 2017, we put some activities together based on our personal experience,” she recalls. “We had no idea how it was going to go. In 2018 we revised and strengthened the program. Now it is really solid and I look forward to watching it continue to grow!”

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