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Zechariah Durham, An Autistic Adult, Secures His First Job on Drexel University's Campus

  • Dahrah Muhammad
Posted on October 28, 2021

When he found that there was an Aramark hiring event, Zechariah Durham had only two days to prepare. Zechariah attended the hiring event hosted by the Beachell Family Learning Center at Drexel University’s Dornsife Center for Neighborhood partnerships. With support from his job coach with Community Integrated Services, Zechariah reviewed his resume and practiced interview questions for the event, which was offering on the spot interviews and job offers. After practicing with his job coach, Zechariah had a little trouble communicating his answers. Since some individuals with autism spectrum disorder may have trouble communicating, representatives with Aramark gave interviewees the time they needed to provide responses. Following the event, six jobseekers with disabilities, including Zechariah, were offered positions with Aramark. Zechariah shared he felt “stupendous” the moment he was offered a job on Drexel University’s campus!


From 2020-2021, Zechariah attended Project SEARCH at Drexel University, a school to work transition program that prepares young adults on the autism spectrum for employment. Currently, Transition Pathways programs enroll nearly 40 students every year. During his time at Project SEARCH, Zechariah learned how to properly write an email, watched CNN news, and completed weekly journals. He also developed a color coordinated calendar to help keep him organized during virtual learning. He still uses this method to organize his work schedule. Once he completed the program, he continued his education as part of a six-week Extended School Year program where he and his peers provided input on developing a youth led advisory board.


Zechariah’s first day on the job was during move-in weekend, when Drexel University welcomed new students to campus. According to a member of his employment support team, “The manager, Levi, is eager to have Zechariah as a part of the team. His co-workers are very supportive, and he is a quicker learner and loves to work hands-on.” Zechariah said the work he does makes him feel “special” and he excited about starting his career in food prep; an industry he is passionate about working in. When reflecting on Zechariah securing his first job, Amanda Kandrick, the classroom instructor for Project SEARCH, said, “I was excited when I first heard [he secured a job on Drexel University’s campus]. During the most challenging year we have had in our educational system, we thought we would have the most challenges finding employment. When we found out he was the one that got selected, we knew this was going to be amazing because he is going into an industry that he wanted to be in.”


Initially, when thinking about getting a job, Zechariah shared that he was “worried about being too late to work.” However, with the help of his calendar, he’s on time and ready for each day. His advice to people working is to “listen to your manager and job coaches,” as they have helped him in his current role. Zechariah is just the start of hopefully many exciting hires as America works towards recovery.


Learn more about how Transition Pathways supports full employment for neurodivergent young adults HERE.