Dream Big Career Camp is back! Earlier this month we held a week of virtual Camp that included students from St. Louis, Chicago, and California to explore careers at Cigna, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Riot Games, Centene, and Edward Jones.
Week 2 was a game changer. In a new format that includes student transportation and a home base at our host sponsor St. Louis University’s campus, students joined us in person once more! With a mix of field trips and companies coming to visit us, students learned about the many possibilities in STEM fields with Boeing, Bayer, Danforth Plant Science Center, Wells Fargo, and HOK.
In both formats, students grew in their understanding of themselves and the possibilities for their futures. “I learned that in most jobs, I still can be me, but at the right time,” said Rachel during her presentation at the end of the week.
Each day a new company introduced themselves to students, from global vision to specific career paths, and brought a hands-on activity to engage students in some part of their work. For students in the virtual Dream from Home week, this included a kit of company swag and project supplies delivered to them.
Cigna kicked Camp off with conversations about everything that happens within a healthcare company, created an awesome trivia game, and led students in movement exercises. Riot Games surprised students with an in-depth look at the new release of their global hit game League of Legends to introduce a conversation about how exactly a game character gets developed and the many different teams and professionals that are part of the process.
Each company helped the students imagine themselves as valuable members of a team in careers they are excited about. “I feel like I have more choices for my future with these companies,” said Drayden.
Working with HOK to create scale renderings of a new community center, Andrew discovered how his passions for math and art combined in the perfect way.
Doug really connected with employees at Bayer who changed his outlook. “I learned that your degree doesn’t exactly define you, instead most of the Bayer employees expressed how they were able to move around in the company without being stuck at a dead-end and truly grow into what suited them most. Learning that you won’t be stuck just in case you picked the wrong degree has made me feel less frustrated when picking the field I want to pursue,” he said.
We eagerly welcomed students back in person to share these moments of personal development off camera as well. When staff began planning for the first on-ground Camp since 2019, it became clear a critical change must be made. Transportation had always been a huge barrier for families during Camp. Many weeks saw students drop out at the last minute when their carefully crafted network of rides, carpools, and parent drop-offs unraveled.
After careful and creative planning, SDI was able to offer door-to-door transportation for students in Dream Big this summer. This support, along with group transportation for any company visits, made participating in Camp possible for students this summer.
This experience matters for students. On top of opening doors to career opportunities, Camp helps students develop confidence and pride as a young person with a disability.
“I have learned that every camper who attends Camp has a disability, and not just me. It made it feel like a family,” said Lucas.
One of the best parts of Camp is the students’ Friday presentations about their goals using the ideas and tools gained during Camp.
Some students have expansive takeaways, like David. “I learned that I’m stronger and smarter than I think I am,” he said.
Other students set very specific goals, like Avery. “My short term goal is to become a better communicator so that I can be a better self-advocate and be better understood,” said Avery before delivering a detailed plan on how he will achieve it.
Dream Big Career Camp ignites the ambition of kids with disabilities. When they raise their expectations for their futures, BIG things happen.