The Shepherd Hotel, a boutique hotel in downtown Clemson, South Carolina, will hire special-needs adults for more than half of its positions when it opens in 2021, according to the Greenville News.
Developers of the five-story, 65-room Shepherd Hotel have partnered with ClemsonLIFE, a program for students with intellectual disabilities at Sullivan Foundation partner school Clemson University. ClemsonLIFE students will fill 60 percent of the hotel’s jobs. A group of ClemsonLIFE students took part in the hotel’s ceremonial groundbreaking on November 14. Dabo Swinney, Clemson’s head football coach and a longtime supporter of ClemsonLIFE, spoke in a panel discussion at the event. “Football is important, but we want to prepare [players] for life after football,” Swinney said. “It’s the exact same responsibility with ClemsonLIFE.”
Rick Hayduk, one of the Shepherd Hotel investors, has worked in and managed hotels for 30-plus years. His youngest daughter, Jamison, wants to work in the business, too. While her father hoped she’d eventually join him in the managerial ranks, Jamison, who has Down syndrome, would prefer a job in the housekeeping department. “She loves to clean,” Hayduk told the Greenville News last year. “She’s an organizer, a planner. As much as I would like her to be the general manager one day, she aspires to be the cleaner.”
Finding jobs is seldom easy for people with special needs. Only a little more than 19 percent of people with disabilities are employed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s compared to almost 66 percent of Americans without disabilities.
ClemsonLIFE has figured out how to beat those daunting odds. Nearly 100 percent of its graduates currently have jobs, the Greenville Times says. The organization partners with 31 local businesses as well as a number of departments within the university to provide internships and jobs for ClemsonLIFE’s 40 students.
The Shepherd Hotel will likely employ between 25 and 30 ClemsonLIFE students. “The opportunity to partner with a hotel opens up so many doors for us,” said Dr. Joe Ryan, ClemsonLIFE’s director.
Swinney is famously close to a young man with Down syndrome: David Saville, the Tigers’ equipment manager. Swinney applauded the Shepherd Hotel developers for investing in the differently abled community. “When you come to this hotel, you’re going to feel what makes Clemson special, and that’s the spirit of Clemson,” he said at Thursday’s event. “And no one represents the spirit of Clemson better than these ClemsonLIFE students.”