Hello Friends, I hope you are staying warm and safe during this unique holiday season. My name is Damita Peace and during this pandemic, I have worn many hats here at RCIL. You may know me from RCIL’s mask making project, or my work with our Deaf consumers, or perhaps you have taken one of my workshops, or attended the RCIL Leadership Academy. As the Curriculum Instructor (teacher), it is my highest honor to put together a class that ended up truly impacting a student.
RCIL has recently become a vendor for the Student Transition Self-Advocacy Training service through ACCES-VR. I wrote the “Ready, Set, GO!” Self-Advocacy curriculum for students working with ACCES-VR to prepare for employment in ways custom designed to meet their needs. Some students need training finding their voice and speaking up on their own behalf with confidence about their rights and reasonable accommodations. Others need to learn how to navigate a professional environment while working on their own independence. Still others have goals of community organization and involvement that can lead to employment. Whatever level of skills our students have, the “Ready, Set, GO!” program is designed to take them to the next level in their employment or educational goals.
Our first student, Alex, came to the program as a senior in high school because he wanted to prepare for employment. Though COVID and his own heroic battle with cancer slowed our start in the beginning, we successfully completed the four Level One courses via Zoom in one-on-one meetings. In Level One Alex learned about disability rights, past and present, and what Independent Living really looks like. He learned about breaking down barriers to employment and education. He also learned about exploring professional habits that set the stage for goal setting and creating plans to achieve those goals. In the final class, he learned what advocates do and how we can become our own best advocate.
At Level Two, Alex determined for himself two projects to further his skills in the areas of his choice. Alex worked on interview skills doing several mock interviews with industry professionals. He got better and better with each session eventually venturing out into his local community to research and apply for part-time jobs in the Rochester area. Though not every interview led to a job offer, he got further and further each time and gained confidence in phone interviews and the Zoom interviews that are typical these days. His second project is to product test a piece of adaptive technology that may be a future reasonable accommodation for him to request at a place of employment. We are excited to see the Product Test Video he is working on for a Pen Reader that he can take with him anywhere to assist with his reading comprehension.
Though his video is still under construction, Alex sent me this email in which he said, “Dear Ms. Peace, Hello! I got a job at BJ's as a Recovery Clerk. Today is my Orientation day. I am not sure what my work schedule will be yet but I will find that out today. I will let you know my schedule to plan my presentation and our meetings. Thank you for your time.” A young man of few words, but I knew he was very excited and proud of himself. Good luck Alex! We all wish you success.
If you know a student, age 14 to 21, enrolled in school or ACCES-VR, check out ACCES-VR Student Transition services. Young people with disabilities don’t have to fall through the cracks as they transition from school to adulthood. We, here at RCIL, are here to help. Our workforce NEEDS young people with disabilities who have a lot to offer to join us in work that is satisfying, well paid, and provides a foundation stone of INDEPENDENT LIVING.