AUCD Network Projects Promote Successful Transition to Education and Employment

man with folders at workAcross the nation, AUCD network members are implementing programs or conducting research to improve transition outcomes for youth with disabilities. Here are a few examples from around the nation.

Central Indiana’s Franklin College is welcoming five high school students with intellectual disabilities to its campus this semester, thanks in part to a grant from Indiana University’s Institute on Disability and Community. The institute, a partner in the Indiana Postsecondary Education Coalition, creates programs on Indiana campuses that give students with intellectual disabilities a chance to participate in college life and obtain hands-on work experience before they begin applying for jobs in their communities. This month, students participating in Franklin’s new INSPIRE program took part in a meet-and-greet activity on campus that served to formally introduce INSPIRE — which stands for Individual Needs in Special Places to Increase Relevant Work Experience — to Franklin College faculty, staff and fellow students. “INSPIRE will help us get experience to get a job and help us take care of ourselves for the rest of our lives,” said Richie Olopade, a student from Center Grove High School.

Ten members of the Rural Institute Consumer Advisory Council (CAC) traveled to Billings, Montana, in November for the 2013 Montana Youth in Transition Conference. Young adult CAC members presented three workshops (“Living on Your Own,” “Let’s Talk about Money!” and “The Missing Therapy – Mental Health”); co-presented with MonTECH (the Institute’s assistive technology program) staff at an AT session; hosted information tables at the Youth and Adult Vendor Fairs; and recruited Emerging Leaders to share their stories of inclusive employment, education, housing, and/or recreation with other Montanans. Ellen Condon, Rural Institute Transition and Employment Project Director, and Kim Brown, Project Coordinator, provided planning and logistical support. Council members chose workshop topics, developed informative and interactive presentations, created visual displays for the vendor tables, and actively engaged with other conference attendees throughout the three-day event. According to Condon, “The young adults who serve on our Consumer Advisory Council are role models and mentors to transition-age youth. Through their leadership and participation in events such as this conference, they expand the vision of what the future can look like for people with even the most significant impact of disability.”

The Oregon Health and Sciences University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities  has launched a fully inclusive theater company as part of Emerging Leaders Northwest. Emerging Leaders Players (ELP) is the first fully inclusive West Coast-based theater group for youth and adolescents (ages 13-30) with and without disabilities that live in and nearby Portland, Oregon.  Emerging Leaders Northwest (ELNW) offers community and web-based information, training and self-advocacy through its resource center and provides leadership skills for youth with disabilities. ELNW trainings and events focus on living a healthy lifestyle, having healthy relationships, graduating from high school and going on to college, standing up for your rights, living independently and getting a job. More than 1,000 youths with disabilities throughout Oregon have participated in training and events put on by ELNW since the program was founded in the fall of 2007.

Training, Resources and Information for the Advancement of Disability (TRIAD) Service AmeriCorps is an inclusive service program through the Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service. TRIAD Service AmeriCorps focuses on assisting students with disabilities in the transition to adulthood. This transition includes national service, employment, postsecondary education, adult healthcare services and more.  Last spring, the TRIAD Service AmeriCorps project at the University of Southern Mississippi Institute for Disability Studies took on a project to help clean up their community after an F-4 tornado hi the Hattiesburg campus.

The Path To Independence Project is a collaborative effort of the University of Nevada at Reno Center for Excellence in Disabilities (NCED), the University of Nevada Reno Extended Studies Department, the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation (BVR), and Sierra Regional Center (SRC). It is based on the national Think College model, which supports students with intellectual/developmental disabilities to have a college experience. It is a two-year, non-degree certificate program. The Path To Independence pilot project enrolled its first student at UNR in Fall 2013. During Year Two, Path To Independence staff will work with each student and their family to develop a customized employment vocational profile and plan. Students will develop a portfolio. Job developers will work in conjunction with BVR to find on- and off-campus internships and employment for students in areas of career interest. Competitive Employment is the expected outcome for each student.

The Academy of Country Music Lifting Lives project has partnered with the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center in Tennessee to help young adults with developmental disabilities learn about the music business and gain job skills. Over the eight-month series, participants will experience aspects of the music business, from song writing to mixing instrumentals and vocals, from recording to public relations to performance. Workshops will include resumé writing, networking, and interviewing. The aim is to help prepare these young adults for internships or jobs in a music-related field.”We’re thrilled at the fantastic opportunity that ACM Lifting Lives Series at Vanderbilt Kennedy Center is providing,” said Elisabeth Dykens, director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center and co-director of its University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. “Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities are significantly unemployed or underemployed, when they have so much to offer. Helping to raise employment aspirations and develop employment skills are a high priority at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. ACM Lifting Lives and so many associated with Nashville’s entertainment industry are making a huge difference by providing these vocational experiences.”