It has been a great beginning to 2018! We have trained 119 Florida Vocational Rehabilitation Community Service Providers to implement the statewide rollout of Peer Mentoring Services in Florida in the month of January.
We are also working with partners in California to explore the development of a peer mentoring program that would be aligned with the California Youth Leadership program.
In total, we now have four states engaged in the WINTAC Peer Mentoring Pilot Program – Alaska, Mississippi, Iowa Blind, and Florida.
Our work with Lights! Camera! Access! 2.0 continues to grow and development a national presence. 2018 events include sessions in New York City, Boston, and Washington D.C. this spring. Later sessions will include Chicago and Los Angeles. Preliminary discussions are also being held with Disney World in Orlando.
Our partner, Tari Hartman Squire, continues to lead this national initiative — bringing young people interested in careers in film, TV, Interactive Media, and Advertising to key sites for one day Summits that connect youth to industry professionals and workshops related to networking and job search issues.
Last, but certainly not least, our College to Career program continues to thrive in Florida with the partnership of Stand Among Friends at Florida Atlantic University.
Florida Atlantic, Beacon College, University Central Florida, and University of South Florida at St. Petersburg are all working on developing their models for their campus. Currently the Professional Development and Disability course is being taught at eight universities in three states – Florida, California, and New Jersey. Discussions are underway with Minnesota to help them jump start a program sometime in 2018-19.
We thank all of our partners for their contribution in the success of these programs.
Being a Peer Mentor for PolicyWorks has taught me to become more than just a leader. I’ve gained responsibility in making sure that I meet my mentee’s needs by realizing where I am able to serve as a resource towards others based on my own personal experiences. By taking initiative to provide possible solutions to their problems, I have been able to help mentees as they pursue their career and/or educational goals.
In addition to my Peer Mentoring experiences, I’ve also used my technical expertise to assist our participants with projects like setting up iPads for educational purposes. I also have assisted in the implementation of our online Peer Mentoring Works Course by translating our course content into Spanish and supporting other technical areas as needed. I look forward to continue making a positive impact on others in a way where I can influence my mentee’s potential future success.
Additionally, I have recently expanded my work as a Peer Mentor with Brillico, a Ft. Lauderdale Vocational Rehabilitation Provider.
PolicyWorks is now working with AbiliTrek, a startup created by former board member Daman Wandke. AbiliTrek is preparing to launch a Yelp-like review service for people with disabilities to rate and review the accessibility of any public place. They understand the needs of people with disabilities and making more information accessible when it comes to IT. AbiliTrek is now helping PolicyWorks produce a quarterly newsletter to keep members of the PolicyWorks community more informed on what we are doing. Additionally, AbiliTrek is helping PolicyWorks keep their social media updated frequently.
PolicyWorks, Stand Among Friends, and Autism After 21 continuously conduct business with the concept of collaboration in mind. “CollaborationWorks” has become the motto and motivation for two employment conferences and an impressive online education gateway for disability-related programs and services.
CollaborationWorks is more than a concept. It is actually a dynamic educational and training gateway developed by PolicyWorks, Stand Among Friends, and Autism After 21 to improve the lives and opportunities of people with disabilities nationally. Current educational and training offerings include Peer Mentoring Works, Attitudes are the Real Disabilities, and Summer Opportunity Adult Readiness (SOAR). Peer Mentoring Works has evolved into a tool for technical assistance and programming for transitional youth and young adults as a result of recent legislation called the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The act was designed to provide pre-employment services to young people who are in school, vocational rehabilitation, the workforce and the Juvenile Justice System. Such services are key to career development and eventual employment.
Florida and Alaska have already adopted the CollaborationWorks’ Peer Mentoring Works course and have begun to launch Peer Mentoring Programs. More states plan to follow.
To find out more about the educational gateway and Peer Mentoring Program, please email Ms. Barbara Butz at firstname.lastname@example.org. To login as a guest to the CollaborationWorks gateway, type https://stand.mrooms.net/course/view.php?id=20 into your browser or click here. Select “login as guest” near the bottom of the page and use password Moodleroom2018 to gain access.
What a year! 2016 was full of opportunities, partnerships and innovation for PolicyWorks.
We completed our first year of work as part of San Diego State University’s Workforce Innovation Technical Assistance Center. Funded by the Rehabilitation Services Administration, the five-year, $1.4 million grant allows PolicyWorks staff to provide technical assistance to the majority of the state Vocational Rehabilitation agencies, both General and Blind, in the Southeast and Puerto Rico. We are teamed with the National Disability Institute and the University of Arkansas CURRENTS to provide training and technical assistance on topics related to implementation of the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act. What an honor and a privilege to work with this team of outstanding professionals committed to improving the lives of people with disabilities.
We also partnered with our colleague Tari Hartman Squire on the work she has championed over the years, helping youth with disabilities connect to careers in the entertainment sector, including film, television, interactive media and advertising. In 2016, we partnered on three Lights! Camera! Access! 2.0 events held at CUNY’s John Jay’s School of Criminal Justice campus and the White House. Each session brings together young people and employers in the entertainment industry for resume reviews, speed interviewing and flash mentoring. Short workshops on networking, mentoring and disclosure are also key to the success of the events. The White House event also featured an after-hours film viewing of documentaries written, produced, directed and starring members of Inclusion Films and the Deaf Film Camp with segments of ABC’s hit “Speechless.”
More recently, we partnered with CBS News, Entertainment, Sports and Business groups for a March 2017 event in Hollywood that engaged 52 young people. The event was held on the CBS lot in Hollywood. In partnership with the National Disability Mentoring Coalition, the Deaf Film Camp, Inclusion Films, Signmation and others, we have developed several funding proposals to that would allow to continue to offer these opportunities and to expand the number and geographic reach of the program.
We are continuing to partner with Florida Atlantic University on our Florida College to Career Transition program funded by The Kessler Foundation and the Millbank Foundation. This project is a replication of our work in California at SDSU, University of California Fulton and the University of California Berkeley. In 2016, we served 20 students and piloted a summer boot camp style version of Paul Hippolitus’ course which was modified for use in this format with young people on the Autism Spectrum. In 2017, we are partnering with Broward College, University of South Florida/ St. Petersburg, University of Central Florida and Beacon College.
We are also piloting our Peer MentoringWorks online class in Florida in partnership with Florida Vocational Rehabilitation. The pilot serves several counties in South Florida and more than 30 pilot coordinators have been trained and 17 mentors have taken the course. Completion results in a certificate which allows them to work with Florida VR clients. This program is set to be expanded to serve the Tampa Bay and Orlando areas. It is very exciting to see the program get this high level of commitment and involvement with our partners. We expect the project will serve 150 students and place 75% of those young people who are available for work.
We also continue to work with the World Disability Institute and the National Council on Independent Living to help change the definition of disability used by Social Security for the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. The initiative called CareerACCESS is designed to serve SSI youth, 18-30 in their career building years, change the definition of disability from “inability to work” to a definition based on a functional ability as well as provide career coaching and counseling and support services to allow SSI youth to reach their highest potential and achieve independence through employment. Independence Through Employment is our vision and it so exciting to be part of these efforts that are helping individual young people make the vision a reality in their lives. We look forward to seeing what promise 2017 continues to hold!
I found in PolicyWorks (PW) an organization that achieves its aims through reliance on collaboration, partnership and teamwork, as well as a desire to continue the vision and work of Susan Daniels in everything that they do. This team approach started at the top – from President Barbara Butz, national services coordinator Steven Allen and Eric Glunt of SDSU’s Interwork Institute – and flowed seamlessly down to the PW ambassadors on our respective college campuses throughout California. Our team contact through conference calls, our online presence, social media efforts, email and in-state meetings made all the difference in the cohesive and successful partnerships that we created over the years and across projects.
While my work for PW was personally rewarding, it is not an understatement that it would become a vital part of building and shaping my own career in vocational rehabilitation (VR). This was most clearly realized in one of PW’s strategic partners in California, SDSU’s Interwork Institute. It was here that my work for PW would lead me to collaborate with professionals in the VR counseling field (in trainings, meetings, and other work), many of whom were graduates of one of the nation’s leading programs in VR, SDSU’s Rehabilitation Counseling Program (RCP). In 2013, this led me to enter graduate study myself in the RCP. My work with PW would go on to become an integral aspect of my graduate experience. This was particularly true of work related to the “Bridging the Gap from College to Careers” program funded by the Kessler Foundation and in implementing the “Professional Development and Disability” (PDD) curriculum of Paul Hippolitus at SDSU in 2014.
For four semesters, the PDD course at SDSU was open for enrollment. My role was as a peer mentor to students as well as collaborating with the PW team (I was also a graduate assistant to the instructor for two semesters). This team consisted of placement specialists who assisted PDD students with locating internships, volunteer sites and paid employment opportunities. We had a very diverse group of students in the course, ranging from freshman undergraduates, to graduate students, to community college students. This diversity was also highlighted in having not only students with disabilities enrolled, but also graduate students entering the VR field who would ultimately be serving this population. PDD students learned about essential employment topics, including disclosure, accommodations and soft skills. Students gained a new perspective on the workplace, disability, removing barriers to employment and maximizing their potential for success in conducting their job search. The overall positive results of the PDD course and “Bridging the Gap from College to Careers” at SDSU, California State University, Fullerton and the University of California, Berkeley have been reported at professional conferences such as the California Association for Postsecondary Education and Disability (CAPED) and the National Conference on Rehabilitation Education (NCRE).
While working on PW initiatives in graduate school, I also worked with transition age youth in the San Diego Community College District (SDCCD) and for a comprehensive transition program within Disability Support Programs and Services (DSPS). In 2016, I became a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) and graduated with my master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling. I received an additional advanced certificate for work done in the area of cognitive disabilities. After graduation, I would stay in DSPS in the SDCCD where I was hired to work as a vocational counselor in an adjunct faculty position for the WorkAbility III program.
As I look back on my journey and the hurdles and challenges that I faced in establishing my career, I can only express gratitude to the organization that gave me my start: PolicyWorks! I stand among so many who can attest that PW changes lives through its projects and programs. In the process of changing lives, PW truly builds a foundation for and creates careers…it most certainly helped to create mine.
Shawn Fiala, M.S., CRC
Shawn Fiala is a Vocational Specialist and Adjunct Faculty member with the WorkAbility III program in the San Diego Community College District. He became the newest member of the PolicyWorks Board of Directors in February 2017.