A group of local high school students with big dreams and even bigger aspirations recently learned firsthand about how Metro supports independent lifestyles for people with disabilities.
Bi-State Development President and Chief Executive Officer John Nations and Executive Director of Metro Transit Ray Friem met the students at the Forsyth MetroLink Station on June 16. The juniors and seniors who are students at high schools around the St. Louis region participate in the Starkloff Disability Institute’s DREAM BIG program.
Before boarding an eastbound MetroLink train headed to downtown St. Louis, Nations, Friem and Colleen Starkloff, the co-founder of the Starkloff Disability Institute, talked to the group about career opportunities Bi-State Development and Metro, as well as the important benefits Metro delivers to the St. Louis region, and how public transit can be a big part of helping them accomplish their dreams.
“Metro provides people with mobility, and provides people with critical access to lead independent lives,” Nations said. “With MetroBus, MetroLink and Metro Call-A-Ride, we can help anyone support themselves and their families, go to school and reach the important destinations in their lives.”
“At the Starkloff Disability Institute we all DREAM BIG about the future of people with disabilities in the workforce, said Starkloff. “Now, more than ever before, with accessible transportation, education, housing, infrastructure and accessible work places, people with disabilities are prepared and eager to work, live in their communities and have families, just like everyone else. However, our youth with disabilities need to know what the job trends are and where they will be welcomed as future employees. Bi-State told our youth to come work for Bi-State. No one says that to youth with disabilities. But now they are. We deeply appreciate the access to buses and trains and the region itself, because that will support disabled people entering the workforce. We hope to see some of our DREAM BIG youth working for Bi-State Development.”
For some of the students with disabilities, it was their first time ever on a MetroLink train. The trip on MetroLink from Clayton to the Stadium MetroLink Station was organized by the Starkloff Disability Institute’s DREAM BIG program as part of its Career Camp. The camp inspires high school students with disabilities to dream big about their careers and their futures. The students also visited Centene, Express Scripts, Boeing Venture, Monsanto, Cortex, Nestle Purina PetCare, and Busch Stadium to explore the wide variety of careers at those companies and to talk to professionals in growing industries.
Mitchell and Jesse (pictured above) may still be in high school, but like other juniors and seniors they are planning for the future. Mitchell is interested in pursuing a job in politics, while Jesse may have a future in agriculture or business. Other students on the train expressed interest in careers ranging from cosmetology to technology and communications.
The Starkloff Disability Institute was founded in 2003 by Colleen Starkloff and David Newburger, and is dedicated to helping people with disabilities participate fully and equally in all aspects of society.
Metro transit, which is a Bi-State Development enterprise, was among the first public transit agencies in the nation to purchase buses with wheelchair lifts that were used in regular service on regular bus routes. All 400 buses in the Metro fleet are accessible to passengers with mobility needs. All MetroLink trains are accessible to riders with disabilities and Metro operates curb to curb paratransit service through Metro Call-A-Ride vans which are equipped with lifts. After being at the forefront of inclusion in the St. Louis region, Metro helped and is still helping people with disabilities in St. Louis gain and maintain their independence.
Bi-State Development, Metro and the Starkloff Disability Institute understand the importance of working together toward the same goals – to have an accessible St. Louis.
Mitchell and Jesse are still in high school, but their dreams are already set on something bigger. Mitchell is interested in pursuing a job in politics, while Jesse may have a future in agriculture or business, as he was impressed with his visit to Nestle Purina PetCare.
The other students expressed interest in careers ranging from cosmetology to technology and communications. This train ride, the very first public transit trip for some of the students, provided the group with an opportunity to experience firsthand how they can take advantage of Metro services to pursue their education and careers, live independently and achieve their dreams.
The Starkloff Disability Institute organized the week’s activities. The not-for-profit organization, founded in 2003 by Colleen Starkloff and David Newburger, is dedicated to helping people with disabilities — more than 18 percent of America’s population – participate fully and equally in all aspects of society.