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Rockdale County dad creates opportunities for adults with special needs

His teenage son has Down syndrome and autism.

ROCKDALE, Ga. — A metro Atlanta father is helping create employment opportunities for people who have special needs.

“It’s fun and each one is like a puzzle, you get to figure out how to do it,” Arianna White tells 11Alive’s Elwyn Lopez as she carefully tears apart a computer, cutting the wires out with the help of a pair of pliers. 

White is part of a small team, Work4Eli, a division of Digital Technology Partners, which helps ensure the disposal of electronic waste. There aren’t a lot of opportunities like this for White, and that’s exactly why Jonathan Kendrick says he created this division in Rockdale County.

Work4Eli is named after his son Elijah. The division employs three adults with special needs.

“People with disabilities are just like normal people, and they want a purpose in life,” Kendrick said.

 Elijah, now a teenager, was born with Down syndrome and a congenital heart condition. At the age of 8, he was also diagnosed with autism. Eli’s parents were told opportunities for adults with special needs were limited once they aged out of public school system at the age of 21.

“We take back old computers, monitors, laptops, phones, basically your general electronic equipment, we break it down and make sure that all the parts get sent to the proper recyclers,” Kendrick said.

White and Hannah Hibben were the first employees at the new division.

“The most difficult thing I’ve ever tried to take a part is a laptop, those are really challenging,” White said.

Hibben said her favorite part is taking apart a server. Mandy Potts joined the team in March.

 “I think it’s pretty fun for me because I get to work on a computer like my dad does,” Potts said.

Shawn Adkins, the executive director for Work4Eli, said the team of three teaches him patience and trust among other things. 

“Working with these wonderful people has been a blessing, a true blessing,” Adkins said.  “It makes me feel so good inside that we are doing something, we are doing a service that actually is fulfilling and it’s rewarding and the potential is so great, I mean, we are still in the baby steps. I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like going forward.”

Going forward is where Kendrick hopes to find limitless opportunities for his son Eli and other students who are currently receiving some sort of special education. 

The latest report from the National Center for Educational Statistics shows that 14 percent of all public school students received some type of special education.

Kendrick hopes those students will find opportunities like the one he offers at Work4Eli. 


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