JOLIET – Demetrius Herrod had worked on cars before, but getting into a professional body shop still was something special.
Herrod, a senior at Lockport Township High School, was among 46 students participating in Disability Mentoring Day on Wednesday.
He was at Greg’s Body Shop with three other students getting an inside look at what it’s like to work in a professional body shop.
“They showed us how to break the cars apart and how to put them back together,” Herrod said. “They showed us how they mix the paints. They have different mixtures to match the color of the cars.”
Herrod had worked on cars with his uncle before and said auto work is the type of career he’d like to pursue.
Getting that kind of close-up view of the workplace is what Disability Mentoring Day is all about.
But it also is directed at local employers to show them the potential of young people with disabilities, said Tabitha Boshears, development associate with the Disability Resource Center in Joliet. The center organizes the annual Disability Mentoring Day activities locally.
“It’s also to show the businesses that students with disabilities are a marketable workforce,” Boshears said. “We’ve had a couple of placements in the past where students have applied and been hired.”
Greg’s Auto Body owner Greg Bucciarelli has been participating in Disability Mentoring Day since it started locally in 2006. He said the experience is rewarding for him and his employees.
“The thing I like the most about it is the energy and the excitement, and how the young students interact,” Bucciarelli said. “I have a business where it’s hands-on, and they can touch and feel. They can interact with what we do.”
His employees’ response to the events have impressed Bucciarelli, too.
“I was so honored and complimented by their enthusiasm to show the students what they do,” he said.
Sixteen employers, including private businesses, nonprofits and local government, participated in Disability Mentoring Day on Wednesday.
Five high schools sent students – all four Plainfield School District high schools and Lockport Township High School.
Adrian Lech, a senior at Plainfield East High School, said his day at Greg’s Body Shop gave him new ideas of how he can apply his interest in painting to a career.
“I want to be a painter. I like to paint,” he said, recalling the painting and other work done in body shop. “And I like to do different types of jobs, like cleaning the cars.”