Like so many other college students, Dylan Eberly hasn’t decided on a major or career to pursue quite yet.

But thanks to a new partnership between the City of Elkhart and ADEC, he has a better idea of what he wants to do with his future.

Mayor Tim Neese has invited ADEC clients — adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities who live in Elkhart and St. Joseph counties  — into the city’s buildings and offices to learn from the city’s employees.


Dylan, alongside ADEC Employment Consultant Mike Delfine, was the first ADEC client to participate in the job shadowing program.  Dylan is 19 years old and recently wrapped up his first year at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. He also lives with several disabilities.

Dylan spent Tuesday job shadowing several individuals within the city’s engineering department. He traveled to work sites throughout the city and then returned to the office to learn about the city’s interactive mapping and record-keeping system.

“I think it’s a very informative and unique opportunity to see what your job can be,” Dylan said. “It lets you preview your life and what is going to happen next.”

Part of ADEC’s mission is to help adults with disabilities find employment, and the nonprofit is grateful that the city of Elkhart has offered a helping hand. ADEC provided more than 300 clients with employment services last year, and the job shadowing partnership with the city could help increase that number.

Sara Howard, ADEC’s senior manager of community employment, said there is a lot of groundwork that must be completed before a client is placed for employment in local businesses or organizations. Before placing a client, ADEC must first be able to assess how well individuals perform in different environments and different settings.

Matt Heineman, Elkhart's GIS and records manager, describes his job using a sketch on a whiteboard. Dylan Eberly, right, was the first ADEC client to participate in a job shadowing partnership between ADEC and the city.

The city of Elkhart extended a warm welcome to ADEC clients, and Sara said she is hopeful the partnership will demonstrate to other businesses and organizations how a relationship with ADEC can be mutually beneficial.

“It’s a testament to the city and how they’re investing in individuals who are oftentimes overlooked,” Sara said. “They also truly value the input and ideas from their partners in the community.”

Sara said she met with the city’s head of human resources, Rhonda Nelson, for several hours to discuss the idea. Even if that was as far as the partnership went, Sara said she would have been grateful.

“Even if the city would have said no to this proposal, the fact that they were open to learning about ADEC and community employment, that shows me what wonderful city officials we have,” Sara said. “They believe in the things we’re doing. They’re not just willing to listen to ideas, but they’re willing to act on them.”

And someone has already benefited from the partnership.

“I could see myself doing that or something like it,” Dylan said after spending the morning exploring the city’s interactive mapping system. “I like that it’s hands-on and that you can explore ideas. You can make something new, something revolutionary and something wacky. You can make a difference.”

Matt Heineman, Elkhart’s GIS and records manager, spent several hours explaining his work to Dylan and his job coach. Heineman explained how his department uses iPads to go out into the city and prioritize which streets need repaving the soonest, with their notes from the field being uploaded instantly to the city’s computer system. He also showed off a new GPS unit the department uses.

Matt Heinman, center, shows Dylan Eberly, right and Mike Delfine an old atlas in the city's public works building. Eberly, 19, was the first student to be placed in a new job shadowing partnership between ADEC and the city.

Matt was patient while explaining the many aspects of his job and he answered many questions from Dylan and Mike. He also made the experience interactive by letting Dylan and Mike explore some of the iPad applications the city uses.

The first day of job shadowing went so well that the city is already working to schedule a second day for Dylan to shadow a human resources employee. After taking an organizational leadership course last semester, Dylan discovered he is also interested in human resources.

“I’m a people person,” Dylan said. “I can interact and I know how to read people. I know how to avoid conflict and how to deal with it if it does come up.”

ADEC already has a few more clients in mind who would benefit from the job shadowing partnership. Because the city manages 20 different departments, there are plenty of different jobs for adults with disabilities to explore and learn.

“This partnership will provide ADEC clients the opportunity to learn new skills and gain experience, but our city and city employees gain so much more,” Mayor Neese said. “The way we see it, this is a win-win.”

Article and photos by Michelle Sokol | Media Communications Specialist