Jeremiah School working to prepare students for life after school

Jonathan Roberts • Aug 11, 2019 at 8:28 PM

While there’s more than a few things that separate the Jeremiah School from traditional schools (both public and private), its commitment to preparing its students for life after school stands out above most.

“We’re really looking at, with our older students, skills to get them into the workplace,” said Principal Jo Cullen. “(It’s) to start transitioning them and get them skills in the workplace ... we’re really relying on the community, we want the community to be willing to take a chance with our students.”

The other major difference between the Jeremiah School and traditional schools? The Jeremiah School is a faith-based nonprofit school for children with autism.

“Our students are amazing,” Cullen said. “They have great skills, great talents, but people are afraid of autism.”

Naturally, that makes preparing the students for a life in the workforce more difficult, as it’s “quite hard to get business to agree to take” the students in, Cullen said.

“We need people who are willing to take a chance,” Cullen continued.

According to Autism Speaks, nearly half of all children with autism have average to above-average intellect.

“For our kids, this is literally about survival — this is about their life,” Cullen said. “They face an absolute uphill struggle in so many ways and we desperately need to give them as much chance as possible to succeed.”

Long-term, Cullen and the Jeremiah School hope to add a transition program for adults 18-24 years old. To do that though, they need a bigger, more permanent building.

“That’s obviously a long-term plan,” Cullen noted. “We are a private charity and we don’t have the resources (to buy a new building).”

“We really need some donors or sponsors to come and say: ‘here’s a building, we’ll donate it’ or ‘here’s a plot of land, we’ll build you a school’,” she kidded, noting that the school wouldn’t exist without Coalition For Kids, which allows the Jeremiah School to use its building in Johnson City.

“We’re absolutely blessed with what we have,” she said.

Building aside, Cullen and the school aren’t going to stop preparing their students for life after their primary education, and called on area businesses to give their students a chance.

“Open your hearts to these students,” Cullen pleaded. “They deserve the chances child has; they deserve the chance to succeed.”

For more information on the Jeremiah School, visit http://www.jeremiahschool.com/ or call 423-915-9257.