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Darlene Hemerka

2017, Equal Justice Works Fellowships, Darlene Hemerka

Darlene Hemerka

Name of Host Organization: Public Interest Law Center
City, State: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Issue area: Education/Special Education
Sponsors: Greenberg Traurig LLP

The Project

Darlene will advocate and litigate on behalf of students with disabilities ages 14 and older in the Philadelphia School District and surrounding counties regarding appropriate secondary transition services and the Work Experience for High School Students with Disabilities Act.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project
Nationally, less than eight percent of students with disabilities graduate from high school with a job. In May 2016, Pennsylvania enacted the Work Experience for High School Students with Disabilities Act. The Act requires the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation to work with School Districts to ensure students with disabilities gain work experience while still in school This law needs to be enforced. One component of my project is monitoring compliance with this new law.
The Right Person For This Project
Darlene is the right person for the project because:
• She has personal experience living with a disability
• She has worked in the Philadelphia School District with high school students with disabilities
• She has an in depth understanding of disability law
Plans For First Six Months of Fellowship
In the first six months, Darlene will:
• Collaborate with partner organizations to begin to identify potential clients and begin meeting with potential clients
• Develop training materials to inform parents and students of their rights related to transition services
• Review the Data published by the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation to determine if it is complying with the requirements of the Work Experience for High School Students with Disabilities Act.