Local Non-Profit Helping Special Needs, At-Risk Youth Post-Graduation

Local Non-Profit Helping Special Needs, At-Risk Youth Post-Graduation
By Alicia Neaves
NewsWest 9

ODESSA - While many students go to college or get a job right after graduation, one group has a lot of obstacles to overcome first. It's the special needs and at-risk group. But one local non-profit, the only one of its kind, is looking to change that.

Parents of special needs or at-risk youth may face the thought: What will my student do post-graduation? Well, a local non-profit, House of the Sycamore Tree, is giving that group a chance to continue their education or possibly begin a career in the real world.

"One of the hardest things for me is knowing, once my kids leave the classroom, there's not a lot available for them out there," Micah Pettigrew, President of the Executive Board at House of the Sycamore Tree, said.

Micah Pettigrew is a teacher at Permian High School. Micah and her husband Nathan, a former ECISD teacher, started the non-profit House of the Sycamore Tree initially for one reason.

"Although it was originally just going to be special needs, we included the at-risk because there's a need for them as well," Nathan Pettigrew, Executive Director of House of the Sycamore Tree, said.

House of the Sycamore Tree offers occupational and vocational training based on the participants abilities. They work on social skills and also help continuous learning and a job become a reality.

"We have done some job skills out in the community and those people know how valuable our kids are but overall the community doesn't realize how much they're capable of doing," Pettigrew said. 

By giving a donation, this group of youth will help with everyday tasks like walking the dog, painting a fence or doing yard work.

"Are they just going to stay home and watch TV? We still need to engage them somehow," Andy Saenz, who has a son with special needs, said.

Saenz's son just graduated from Permian.

"They call it special needs for a reason, the special attention that's needed. It's sometimes a little taxing on the parents, on the mother and father, and it's a little taxing on the child as well," Saenz said.

He says House of the Sycamore Tree is a blessing to his son.

"It kind of gave us an avenue of how to keep our son engaged and how to keep him learning post-graduate," Saenz said.

House of the Sycamore Tree has a fun event planned on Tuesday night. If you or someone you know is interested in their program, you can find all you need to know by clicking here.