- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 27, 2003

A large civil engineering and architecture firm has been recognized for helping special-education students.

Dewberry, a 1,600-member firm in Fairfax, was given the Exemplary Employer Award by Fairfax County Public Schools in recognition of its work with the S. John Davis Career Center, which provides career, employment and life-skills instruction to students with disabilities.

Dewberry was chosen out of more than 500 businesses in Northern Virginia that support the system’s Career and Transition Services by providing job shadowing, mentoring, training, and paid and nonpaid employment opportunities.

The firm has been working with students from the Davis Center for three years, and will start its fourth school year in September.

“As long as they’ve got them, we’d be happy to keep working with them,” said Steve Roberts, Dewberry’s director of logistics.

The students have a range of developmental, emotional and physical disabilities, including autism, deafness and cerebral palsy.

Davis Center students work about 20 hours a week in the Fairfax headquarters office. Their duties include printing, document scanning, filing, copying, keyboarding, mail handling and maintenance.

Teachers instruct students on living and career skills, such as preparing a resume, using public transportation and managing money.

Mr. Roberts started the firm’s partnership with the Davis Center after searching for some way to help the local special-education community.

“I wanted our company to be able to work with the community — something like the Special Olympics, something of that nature,” he said. Many of the students would have ended up in institutions 30 years ago, Mr. Roberts said.

“A lot of these kids that graduate the program are out there working — now they’re productive citizens,” he said.

Although they were reluctant to work with the Davis Center students at first, Dewberry employees have adjusted and the students have become popular co-workers.

“People are just clamoring for them to come and work with them,” he said.

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