Ian Linn graduated from Masterman High School in Philadelphia on June 3rd and will be attending Oberlin College in the fall. He is undecided on his major, but plans to study liberal arts and is considering a career in law. This May, he shadowed Equal Justice Works fellow Darlene Hemerka as part of his senior project.
“I chose the Public Interest Law Center because I was interested in advocacy, specifically for people like myself with disabilities,” Ian said. “I thought that the Law Center would be a great example of what that advocacy can do.”
Among other projects, Ian helped research a new proposed policy at the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation—the Pennsylvania agency that helps people with disabilities gain employment—that would place new applicants for services on a waitlist in response to cuts in federal funding.
Ian has Moebius Syndrome, a disorder that causes facial paralysis. When he was in preschool and kindergarten, Ian’s parents contacted former Law Center attorneys Tom Gilhool and Barbara Ransom after having difficulty getting sufficient early intervention services for Ian, such as speech therapy and occupational therapy. “They worked pretty hard to find exactly what I needed and get me those services,” Ian said.
Last year, Ian served on the Philadelphia School District student advisory board, advising the Superintendent on student experience. Though about 14.5 percent of students in the district have Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), “disability was not being talked about a lot,” Ian said. “I joined in an effort to get involved in the conversation.”
Though Ian says that the District needed “prompting” at times to provide services and accommodations, Ian feels that he has been prepared for the next step in his education. “My therapists have all worked very hard to get me where I am today, heading off to college” he said.
However, he knows that many students with disabilities do not receive sufficient services. He sat in on a client interview with a Philadelphia student who did not receive enough support to prepare for college and the workplace. In the presentation for his senior project, Ian discussed how the Philadelphia School District manages services for students with disabilities, and what they could be doing better.
“The District doesn’t always pay attention to [schools with less support] through the lens of disability, which is interesting because these schools often have higher concentrations of disabled students”
“There are so many other schools that don’t receive nearly the support that Masterman does,” Ian said. “The District doesn’t always pay attention to [schools with less support] through the lens of disability, which is interesting because these schools often have higher concentrations of disabled students.”
The Law Center will continue to work to make sure all students with disabilities have the services they need. If you high school student needs help preparing for adulthood, please contact Darlene Hemerka at 267-546-1314. Read more here.