After young adults with disabilities complete high school, what comes next for them? While most high school students go off to college or join the workforce, adults with disabilities have fewer options. Going to college isn’t always feasible, and job options are limited.
Since opening in 2014, Unless U, a Birmingham nonprofit, has helped meet the needs of adults with disabilities by providing them with opportunities to further their education beyond high school. In August 2021, Unless U opened Unless U Scoops, an ice cream shop in Vestavia Hills where they offer their students vocational training.
“(Unless U is) a day program for adults with disabilities, and we provide continuing education, job training and life and social skills,” Marye Grace Sauermann, the marketing and development director for Unless U, said. “We try to create a college-like atmosphere, so we start accepting students once they finish high school. They’re able to stay here as long as they want. Now with Unless U Scoops, we are also able to employ them.”
After applying for the State Farm Neighborhood Assist grant, Unless U made it to the top 200 applicants. From there, online voting was open to the public, and only the top 40 applicants with the most votes would receive a $25,000 grant for their organizations. Through email blasts, social media posts and QR codes spread throughout Unless U Scoop’s storefront, Unless U encouraged people to vote for them to win the grant.
After about a month of voting, Unless U learned they were one of the fortunate and deserving organizations in the top 40. On Oct. 8, State Farm representatives traveled to Unless U Scoops to present a big $25,000 check to go toward Unless U Scoop’s job training needs and expenses. In order to celebrate, it was only fitting that Unless U hosted an ice cream party for all their students.
“(The students) really understand the impact that $25,000 can make and have on their lives, so they were super excited,” Sauermann said.
Mary, a 49-year-old student at Unless U, has been there for three years and has loved her experience. Her favorite aspect of Unless U is getting to work at Unless U Scoops.
“I get to go to college with all my friends and learn and have so much fun,” Mary said.
Along with getting to work at Unless U Scoops, students also can participate in electives such as karate, arts and crafts, fitness, and perform in their drama company.
How to Support Unless U:
- Grab a sweet treat at Unless U Scoops
- Donate to Unless U online
- Attend various fundraisers throughout the year. Here is what is coming up:
- Attend the Unless U Drama Company’s production of A Christmas Carol on December 3, 2021 at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Tickets are available for purchase online for $5.
- Join Unless U at the Lyric Theatre on February 19, 2022 for the 2nd annual Unless U Got Talent. Students pair with local celebrities to compete for the title of Unless U Got Talent champions. Tickets are available for purchase online.