As a social worker, Jeanine Coleman saw many young adults with behavioral challenges were not receiving the resources needed to get and maintain jobs, become more independent and find financial stability.
“When we talk diversity and inclusion, a lot of times we do not think about diversity and inclusion of people with mental health challenges in the workforce,” Coleman said.
So, she created Project WILL Inc. — named after her father, Willie Spivey — and through this organization, Coleman and her team help behaviorally challenged people, ages 14-35, learn and build communication skills, financial literacy and an understanding of social and cultural norms to support them through a difficult life transition: the transition from high school into the workforce.
The organization works with people with diagnosed intellectual disabilities, behavioral challenges, anxiety, depression or other mental health challenges.
“Our main goal is to continue to assist these individuals with these behavioral challenges to find employment and or have a meaningful day,” said Immanuel Ivey, executive director.
In Ivey’s eyes, a meaningful day consists of learning interpersonal skills that could help them find employment and create new relationships and friendships, including romantic relationships. Through Project WILL’s L.I.N.K.S initiative — Leadership, Independence, Neighborly volunteering, Knowledge and Skills initiative — members are taught the importance of setting and maintaining boundaries as well as social media etiquette — an understanding of what’s safe and dangerous on social media.
Project WILL also hosts mock interviews with other organizations such as Goodwill and Teachers Credit Union, and through these interviews, members are able to practice job interviewing skills and better understand the job interview process. They are also able to learn what is expected of them when they do receive a job offer.
Every Friday the organization participates in “Fun Friday,” where members come together, interact with one another, meet new people and further build those interpersonal skills by doing activities such as going to the movies, bowling or trying new foods and rides at the Indiana State Fair.
“It’s good to interact with other people” member Delon Smith said.
To become a member of Project WILL, there is a fee of $8.50, but the fee is waived for those with Medicaid insurance.
At the end of this year, Project WILL wants to work with people who are aging out of foster care. They also have a goal of working with juveniles and adults with addictions in 2022.
“We are just trying to let everybody know that even though they may have some sort of disability they are still able to do work and to contribute to society,” Ivey said. “We just don’t want them at home just playing games or just doing nothing, we want them to see their full potential.”
Project WILL works with individuals with behavioral challenges ages 14-35 to help them create find employment, create financial stability and navigate relationships. For more information, visit projectwill.org.