JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. -- After graduating high school, most students move on to college, or the workforce. But taking that next step can be more difficult for students with disabilities.
Some students in JeffCo Public Schools' transition program are getting a unique opportunity to intern at the Denver YMCA Southwest branch in Lakewood.
Christopher Gully, 19, who has autism, says his internship helped with his communication skills.
YMCA member experience director Jamie Hamilton agrees.
"I think that his experience at the YMCA really helped him to learn the skills, customer service, working with people," said Hamilton.
In fact, after his internship, the YMCA offered Gully a paid position. But he turned it down to accept an even better offer at Trader Joe's.
"I really like working at Trader Joe's," Gully told Denver7.
Interns at the YMCA help with maintenance, office work, and even give facility tours. Owen Young, 20, likes working on computers.
"I do some typing and I also do data entry, and organization and shredding papers and a lot of other fun stuff," said Young.
Linda Hehn, a special education teacher with JeffCo Public Schools, says finding places that understand her student's quirks can be a challenge, but the YMCA has been a great partner. She says this is the first chance many of her students have had to interact with their community.
Both Christopher and Owen have enjoyed interning at the YMCA, but both have dreams of moving on to other jobs.
Owen says he'd like to continue working with computers. Christopher says he wants to be a motivational speaker, and advocate for people with disabilities.
He tells us, "I would say to people with autism that they should do what they want as other people do."