My name is Salim Alexander and I am 17 years old. I live in Hawaii and go to school at James Campbell High School. My school experience is going very well. I was able to go to school online this year because of COVID. I pay close attention to the information given to me by my instructor. This year my classes included math, democracy, language arts, and Japanese. Japanese is a hard language for most people but easy for me.
During my IEP, we talked about jobs and working. One of my goals is to think about a career – that is my primary goal. I want to go on to college. A career I would like is to be an architect. I would like to job shadow with an architect. I like to design and build things with Legos and I am very good at it.
I have a good work ethic and am assigned chores around the house – sometimes I help with the dishes and laundry, putting clothes in the washing machine and then the dryer. Sometimes I sweep the floors too.
Building on interests:
I have been interested in building and construction and building things with Legos since I was little. I also play Minecraft, a building video game on PlayStation, and use my imagination to create different places – I started playing 4 years ago. I build cities and castles on Minecraft and I have to plan out the city and think about where the placement of the buildings will be before I start building.
Because I am interested in building and construction, that is my focus in school, and it relates to my career goal of being an architect. In school, I built items out of wood such as a step stool and a coat box.
Getting an internship
I had an interview with Abilities Unlimited through the Hawaii Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (https://www.auhawaii.org/employment). I met with them and we talked about careers and what to do to make ourselves better. I gave examples of disabilities and accommodations I might require. I said I would need mentors and support from school staff. One of my favorite activities was when we learned about Dyslexia. I found this interesting because there are some famous people who have Dyslexia like Keanu Reeves.
Because I did so well, I was recommended for paid summer employment as an intern. A list was sent home to select from different types of businesses and I selected working in an office environment because I like to scan and create documents and I’m good on the computer. Abilities Unlimited has identified local employers, and they informed me that they would let me know what my options were. I’ve never had a paying job before this summer, and I’ve been excited about being able to go to work and get paid.
Based on my interests, I was given a job at the local UPS store. So far, my experience has been very good. My work environment is very cooperative and helpful.
My mom and dad help me with finding strengths and interests. One aspect in my IEP states that I need a calculator in math as an accommodation. Another accommodation is that my teachers give me time for a break. When I get a job, these accommodations will also be helpful.
Advice to other 17-year-olds planning for their future:
- Find mentors and parents who can guide you toward your goal and find your expertise.
- When you make a mistake, you can correct it as you learn.
- Learn self-advocacy. I advocate for myself by taking my time and staying patient.
- Pay close attention in your IEP meeting so you can advocate for yourself.
- Find accommodations that help. I have a stress ball by my side to help me calm down in stressful situations.
In class, I participate and ask for support when I need it. I pay close attention to the details and instructions. When I need help, I raise my hand. I go over things in detail if I don’t understand.
I will take these same skills into my internship – ask for help, pay attention to details and advocate for myself.