WINCHESTER — For some students with disabilities, their options after high school graduation may seem limited, said Bonnie Zampino, center manager for Virginia Career Works in Winchester.

“There’s the whole, ‘What’s going to be next for my child?’” Zampino said.

But last week, seven area students with disabilities were able to explore information technology careers through a new week-long program called IT Academy.

The program was made possible by a federal Career Pathways for Individuals with Disabilities grant in partnership with the Shenandoah Valley Workforce Development Board, Virginia Career Works-Winchester Center and Goodwill Industries of the Valley.

During the camp, which was held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day, students explored various IT careers, discussed how to be a good employee, toured Shenandoah University’s virtual reality lab and built micro computers that they got to take home.

The camp helped Jason Short, 16, of Warren County, realize what colleges he should apply to. For a career, he wants to code and build video games.

Tori Lambert, 17, a senior at James Wood High School, said there’s not a lot of support for young people with disabilities in the community. But she thinks any student with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) should consider attending the IT Academy or programs like it.

Tori sees herself repairing phones or computers after graduation, so getting to build a micro computer was a really cool experience because she had never done anything like that before.

The IT Academy helped assure Tori’s father, Craig Lambert, that there are career options for his daughter after graduation.

Her mother, Melissa Lambert, added that the IT Academy helped Tori come out of her shell and make new friends.

“There’s nothing around here for students with disabilities,” Melissa Lambert said. “This would be amazing if they could continue more programs like this.”

— Contact Anna Merod at amerod@winchesterstar.com

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