Building Opportunities Through Technology

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
SouthSTAR Services
City & State:
Chicago Heights, 
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

Mission Statement: Providing choices and opportunities for persons with developmental disabilities, which enrich their lives and maximize independence in their pursuit of vocation, community living and social integration.

Vision Statement: Persons with developmental disabilities will lead lives where discrimination and waiting lists are minimized, enabling them to achieve equal rights and access to the services and supports that empower them to assume their rightful roles in society as productive, valued citizens.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

History of the Organization

SouthSTAR Services was founded in 1950 by a group of parents in search of education, training and activities for their children with mental retardation. Volunteers staffed the school in several donated quarters in the south suburbs throughout the 1950's and 1960's. As students matured, the need for vocational services grew. By the mid-1970's, SouthSTAR was serving adults exclusively, many of whom were graduates of the local Special Education Cooperative which had been mandated to serve the mentally disabled children. SouthSTAR moved to its current Chicago Heights location in 1975. Most recently, SouthSTAR has expanded its array of service options to include home-based programs for children with developmental disabilities.

Optimizing the Mission Delivery

SouthSTAR Services has taken a leadership role in creating opportunities for people with developmental disabilities to become computer literate. In 2007, SouthSTAR Services developed a Community Technology Center (CTC). The main goal of the CTC is to provide individuals with disabilities the training needed to become more competitive when applying for employment within the community, as well as, to enhance the level of communication outlets available to them. This CTC is a program provided over an above the regular programming funded through the State of Illinois. By providing computer training, SouthSTAR has increased the skill level of those with disabilities to find, apply, gain and retain employment. For example, upon completing training within the CTC, individuals are able to fill out applications at the kiosk's located at several stores. Individuals are also able to search for job openings by using the internet.

SouthSTAR feels that providing this type of training to individuals with disabilities helps increase the range of clients served and ehances the quality or impact of services SouthSTAR already provides. It also greatly impacts the effectiveness of services delivered because technology is integrated into the service delivery plans. There are over 51.2 million people with disabilities in the U.S. This comprises over 14% of the population making people with disabilities one of the countries largest minority groups. Yet people with disabilities continue to be an untapped resource of employment skills. Our CTC has a structured curriculum to meet the needs of the individuals we serve and is geared toward helping them obtain and retain the job they desire.

The CTC has designed a 3 tiered level of training to best meet the needs of individuals with developmental disabilities.

  • Level I - Computer Experience designed to provide those with developmental disabilities with an initial computer experience, for example, turning on/off and identifying components of the computer. Very little skill is required for these classes and staff will provide one-on-one guidance and supervision. These classes take place on a rotating basis.
  • Level II - Introduction to Computers is designed to educate students on basic computer concepts, such as cyberspace, hardware, software, privacy, security, ethics, emerging issues, etc. The class should be completed within a 3 month timeframe with a certificate of completion given at the end.
  • Level III - Basic Computer Skills with Industry Specific Data Entry and Information Processing Training. This level is designed to provide students with bacis principles of using Windows Operating System including basic keyboarding and mouse use, accessing the Internet, Worldwide web, and using Internet directories, search engines and locate www addresses. Additionally, students are taught the basics of e-mail, such as sending , forwarding, receiving, attaching documents, creating mailboxes, filters and address books. Finally the students are taught basic word processing skills with Microsoft Word, such as text input, formatting, editing, cut, copy, paste, spell check, margin and tab controls, keyboarding shortcuts, printing and inserting graphics. The class should be completed within a 6 month timeframe with a certificate of completion given at the end.

Indivdual Success Stories

Stephanie is a 26 year old who was adopted after being born with special needs. Stephanie used to hate the fact that she was different form others and felt like she didn't fit in. At the age of 22, she moved into her second group home and began working at in the training center at SouthSTAR. It was then that she began to realize her problems were no longer problems. She recently completed the three levels of computer training through the CTC and participated in the first ever graduation ceremony honoring those who successfully completed the course. Due to her newfound skills, Stephanie has been employed as an assistant in the CTC. She is responsible for creating and distributing the "Shooting STAR" newsletter that is written and designed exclusively by individuals within SouthSTAR's programs utilizing Publisher. (A copy of the newsletter has been uploaded for your review)

Rita is a 61 year old with physical disabilities who was recently referred to SouthSTAR exclusively for employment services. Rita immediately enrolled in the CTC coursework and after 2 months has obtained work at a local hospital in their development department where she utilizes her newly acquired computer skills on a consistent basis. She is still in classes at the CTC and is working to improve her typing speed.

Additionally numerous individuals taking the CTC classes have created email accounts so they can communicate with friends and family on a daily basis. They are also utilizing these accounts to communicate with SouthSTAR staff regarding their service goals and to exchange general information.


The success stories above are direct examples of how SouthSTAR is utilizing the donations from Micorsoft and TechSoup within the Community Technology Center to optimize our mission delivery. Prior to starting the CTC only five people showed interest in obtaining work within the community, now with the confidence they have gained through their computer training, 35 individuals have been able to achieve employment within the community. This has made a significant impact in helping SouthSTAR assist those with developmental disabilities gain vocation within the community. With the many changes that have occurred within the country and in the State of Illinois, SouthSTAR remains committed to providing the highest quality of care possible to the individuals who have been entrusted to our care. We will continue to remain dedicated to this commitment as we move forward with the expansion of other programs and services so that those we serve continue to receive the highest quality of care possible all while continuing to stay true to our mission.

Submission Category
Optimize Mission Delivery
Project Image
Supporting Work Files