What We Do
Empowering the Inclusion of Children of All Abilities
Pathways was originally founded by Melinda Jennis in Montville Township, New Jersey in January 2002 as a support group for parents of children with disabilities. 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 her daughter Stephanie (age 7 at the time) and in November 2002, Pathways became a nonprofit. For the first five years, Pathways focused on building sports, recreation and mentor programs that included children ages 3-21 of all abilities. 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 various disabilities.
Keeping one eye on today and one on the future, Melinda and her daughter continued to be plagued by the 70% employment rate for people with disabilities. The future looked bleak for these children. They knew the sports and recreation programs, no matter how inclusive and vital, did not provide the employment training needed to assist those with disabilities to pay rent or put food on the table. Without better training, these children were destined to a life living at home with their parents and dependent on government aide. Therefore, in May 2008, Pathways added an essential element to their array of programs called Project Win Win and opened a state-of-of the art 2,700 square foot facility. The goal of this program is to help these children discover their passions and train to do work they love. The children begin training in the studio along side their peers and pogress out into community employment placements. It has become a priority to make Project Win Win the "Apple" of employment training and to expand desperately needed services for middle and high school students with special needs.
The progress and outcomes Pathways has experienced in such a short time is unprecedented. The organization has become an icon in their community and helped many other parents, schools, and communities to build inclusive programs that prepare children of all abilities for success in their lives! Pathways is an example of what can be done and the valuable role families having children with special needs can play to show the empowerment everyone experiences when schools and communities commit to including and maximizing the potential of children of all abilities!
Melinda Jennis Interviewed on the Dawn Show