East Hanover, NJ– Over 100 high school students with disabilities visited Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation (NPC) for a day of career exploration on October 19, National Disability Mentoring Day.  Students from Morristown as well as 10 other schools participated.  

This annual event at the Company’s East Hanover campus helps students with special needs recognize that they have a role as part of a diverse future workforce and inspire them to think about possible future careers for themselves.

Students engaged in interactive career sessions, including a career fair with companies that hire people with disabilities and area colleges and universities with strong inclusion practices.  Students also heard from a panel of people with disabilities who have gained success in their careers or personal lives despite their challenges.

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Keynote speaker Karen Gaffney, President of the Karen Gaffney Foundation and a passionate advocate for full inclusion in families, schools, communities and the workplace for people with Down syndrome or other developmental disabilities, inspired the students.  “When you are tempted to say, ‘No way, I’ll never make it.  It takes too much work, too much discipline,’ remember: yes, it does take those things but you CAN do it.  Have the courage to dream big.  Make the most of what you have been given.  Then, call attention to what you have achieved,” she said.

Reflecting on the day, Caryn Parlavecchio, US Country Human Resources Head, NPC said, “Disability Mentoring Day is an opportunity for students to interact with colleges, universities, and potential employers who welcome and nurture people with different skills and talents. They hear from adults who have pursued their goals and found success. It is a day to encourage these students to have the courage to dream big.”

One participating student said, “Everyone here is brave.  Being here today, listening to people at the college and career fair… We took a big step.”

National Disability Mentoring Day is sponsored nationally by the American Association of People with Disabilities.