Pathways began as a parent support group founded by Melinda Jennis (pictured above with her children Jacob and Stephanie) in Montville Township, New Jersey in January 2002. As a result of her own experiences with her son Jacob, who has multiple disabilities, Melinda knew much more had to be done to ensure the inclusion and success of her child and others like him.
Melinda joined with other parents and her daughter Stephanie (who was 7 years old at the time) and made Pathways a model nonprofit organization committed to helping children of all abilities to feel included and to reach their fullest potential.
For the first five years, Pathways focused on building sports, recreation, and mentor programs that included children ages 3-21 with disabilities. Pathways quickly became known throughout New Jersey for its innovative “children teaching children” model, which provides a formal mentor training program that teaches children how to work with and include children with special needs.
By May 2008, it became clear that the children with disabilities needed far more than just sports and recreation. Pathways began an employment training program called Project Win Win. This program is designed to combat the overwhelming unemployment and poverty rates facing people with disabilities. There was no doubt that without better training, many children with disabilities were destined for unemployment, dependency on their families, and government aid. Inclusive after school programs and services were almost nonexistent for children with special needs at the middle and high school level. Most educational programs gave some job sampling but little in the way of employment training that had any lasting impact or outcome.
As a result, Pathways expanded and developed a continuum of programs designed to bridge these gaps and bring children together to prepare them for greater independence and success in life and the workforce. What makes Pathways employment programs unique, is we use a peer to peer job coach model. Children train for jobs alongside each other, which creates a win win proposition for everyone! Pathways is passionate about changing the conversation about disability. We focus on children’s passions and strengths and work tirelessly toward bringing out the best in children of all abilities.
Pathways provides programs for children of all abilities where they can develop skills, independence, and self confidence in inclusive settings. Whatever the need of a child might be, we try to modify and provide the support to maximize their individual potential. Our programs provide early intervention for children starting at the age of 3. Pathways offers a variety of programs that provide a continuum of support to children and families up to age 21.
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