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The Right Talent, Right Now: The Harris Center and the H.E.A.R.T. Program Provide Summer Internships for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Bookmark

The Right Talent, Right Now: The Harris Center and the H.E.A.R.T. Program Provide Summer Internships for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Every October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month raises awareness about disability employment issues and celebrates the many varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. This year’s theme is “The Right Talent, Right Now.” As part of this month’s activities, The Harris Center is highlighting our recent summer internship collaboration with the H.E.A.R.T. Program.

For many individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), finding jobs out in the “real world” may not always come easy. As part of The Harris Center’s commitment to transform the lives of people with IDD, the agency recently collaborated with the H.E.A.R.T. Program to provide summer internships to individuals with IDD to allow them the opportunity to gain hands-on work experience across our agency’s various programs.



Started in 2006, the H.E.A.R.T. Program’s mission is to promote structured independence for individuals with developmental disabilities by providing innovative education, training, housing and employment programs. The H.E.A.R.T Program collaborates with the University of Houston-Downtown to provide classes to interested individuals on the school’s campus in preparation for internship placements. The students then go on to do an on-campus internship, and that is followed by an off-campus externship. During Summer 2019, some of these students completed their off-campus externships at The Harris Center. They are now back taking additional classes at the University of Houston-Downtown in preparation for their graduation from the H.E.A.R.T. Program.

“[This is a] big initiative that’s a pilot program to really put these individuals in real world work situations … and see how they do [as well as] give them the skills they need to be successful,” said H.E.A.R.T Program Executive Director Jane Borochoff.

29 individuals with IDD were placed at The Harris Center through the H.E.A.R.T Program over the summer in different departments. They performed a variety of tasks such as greeting visitors, filing paperwork, helping maintain the printers, and inputting data.

Adrianne, an intern in The Harris Center Contracts Department, shared, “I have my own office, I have enough room to organize all files. I help my supervisors…with their paper work.”

“When [Adrianne] came in, she was eager to learn and she would take instructions very clearly. You could just tell her one time and she would go on her own and complete her tasks,” said Shaskyia Behn, Administrative Assistant in the Contracts Department at The Harris Center.

As the internships came to an end, the H.E.A.R.T Program had a celebration to recognize all the interns and their accomplishments.

“We played a slide show, showing pictures of the interns and their work experience, we had a limbo contest, we had catering done, decorations, and had a performance by Alexis. We wanted to thank the interns in return for their time and thank the parents for choosing H.E.A.R.T,” said H.E.A.R.T Program Vocational Training Specialist Erin Calhoun-Holman.

The interns truly made a positive impact on staff and helped shine a light on the capabilities of individuals with IDD in the workplace.

“The success of this program has been incredible. I think that seeing, not only the education but the multiple cases of job training, it really shows what these individuals are capable of,” Borochoff said.


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