Special needs students shine with hospital jobs

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Some special needs students are getting some real world work experience volunteering at Baptist Women's Hospital in East Memphis.

Seven students from Houston High are taking part in the program that launched back in September.

The students volunteer for a couple of hours, once a week at the hospital.

They bring their own snack cart to sell candy and hand out magazines.

They also help out in the hospital cafeteria and clean furniture in the lobby.

"I just can't express how important it is to have an opportunity to take the skills that we have learned in the classroom and be able to apply them in the general public," said Cathy Jones, a Functional Skills Teacher at Houston High.

Dr. Lori Rae Holtzman, a pediatrician with Baptist Medical Group, started the program and modeled it after a similar one at Cincinnati Children's Hospital.

"I had my son Cody by that time who has Down Syndrome and So I've been watching that program over the years," said Dr. Holtzman.

Dr. Holtzman's son Cody is in the Baptist program.  Holtzman says the goal is to give children with special needs the chance to work, socialize and feel better about themselves.

"Most individuals with a disability can work. Most can work. The question is will the establishment make modifications for them," said Dr. Holtzman.

Houston High instructors say in just a few short months they have seen big changes in their special ed students.

"We have several students that when we started could not even give eye contact to people or say hello to them and because Baptist is so friendly  it's a great place they have been now able to look people in the eyes and say good morning how are you," said Jones.

Baptists hopes to have more students from more schools volunteering at more of their hospitals and hopes that other corporations in Memphis offer similar opportunities.