February 17, 2018  

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Area High School Students Participate in Disability Mentoring Day

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Oak Grove High School student Cha Mar Booth, center, is cheered on by Southern Miss students during the silent hip hop music party on the Centennial Green. (Submitted photo)

Nervous excitement ultimately turned into relaxing enjoyment for a group of Oak Grove High students who participated in a day of job shadowing at The Institute for Disability Studies (IDS) at The University of Southern Mississippi.

“I’m really excited about working with you today,” Oak Grove freshman Alex Hernandez informed IDS staffer Cookie Smith as the students arrived on Oct. 19 as part of National Disability Mentoring Day. Added Oak Grove sophomore Cha Mar Booth, “Me too, but I’m nervous.”

Hernandez and Booth were joined by classmates Taylor Carley, Reagan Ratcliff and Hailey Graham for the day-long job shadowing experience. Following an “orientation” session, the students toured the Institute and various university sites. As part of career exploration, the students had an opportunity to see the University Post Office in action and tour the campus radio station.

While this is the second year IDS has participated in National Disability Mentoring Day, the institute has a long history of youth with disabilities volunteering and learning on-the-job training while attending high school or living in the Hattiesburg community.

“What made this year’s Disability Mentoring Day so rewarding were the instant friendships that were made,” said Smith, coordinator of IDS’ Family2Family program. “Within an hour of meeting, the young ladies were exchanging phone numbers and planning a weekend to see each other and the guys were talking about music and computers.”

The students also attended a community event that included parents, teachers and members of the Junior Civitan Club. Nicole Marquez, a Southern Miss graduate, and dancer from Jackson, Miss., served as guest speaker. Marquez shared the powerful, inspiring story of her fall from the roof of her New York apartment building three years ago.

“I could have easily thrown myself a pity party and given up, but I didn’t,” she told the group. “You have to find what motivates you and go for it.”

For more information about the Institute for Disability Studies, call 601.266.5163 or toll free at 1.888.671.0051 or visit: http://www.usm.edu/ids/