President’s Message – Winter 2018

Barbara Butz, President
Barbara Butz, President PolicyWorks

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.

Barbara A. Butz

Renzo Burga: Peer Mentoring in Action


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.


Renzo Burga, Peer Mentor

Implementing Alaska PeerMentoringWorks

Nicona MacDonald, PolicyWorks Project Development Specialists
Nicona MacDonald, Project Development Specialist

Implementing Alaska PeerMentoringWorks: A Workforce Innovation Pilot Project for WINTAC

PolicyWorks staff have been busy collaborating with leaders from the Alaska Division of Rehabilitation, Alaska Department of Labor and the National Disability Institute to develop and implement a comprehensive peer mentoring program for the state of Alaska. Beginning in 20127, the program will be delivered via the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) in Juneau as well as at regional Alaska Division of Rehabilitation locations.

The PolicyWorks Peer Mentoring Program is one of three Workforce Innovation Pilot Projects (WIPPs) for the Workforce Innovation Technical Assistance Center (WINTAC). WINTAC’s goal is to assist state vocational rehabilitation (VR) programs and related professionals in meeting the federal workforce guidelines set in place by the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA).

Alaska VR has demonstrated their sincere enthusiasm for adopting a statewide Peer Mentoring Program by committing top staff to this project. Jim Kreatschman, Statewide Youth Transition Coordinator for Alaska Department of Labor, Division of VR, and Windy Swearingin, Disability Employment Initiative (DEI) Statewide Leads for Alaska’s Department of Labor, Division of Employment and Training Services, have contributed their expertise on issues specific to Alaska’s unique geographic layout. Nikki Powis, Technical Assistance & Training Manager from the National Disability Institute and a prior resident of the state of Alaska, provided insight to the development of our the Peer Mentoring Pilot program. Working together has been an invaluable experience for all involved and has played a key role in creating a program model that will effectively meet the needs of Alaska’s youth located in both larger cities and rural areas.

PolicyWorks staff have been collaborating creatively with these and other local experts to establish the best possible program. Ciara Calsita and Nicona MacDonald, PolicyWorks Project Development Specialists , worked with Cindy Murphy-Fox, Assistant Chief for Alaska Department of Labor, Division of VR to establish a comprehensive resource database that works in tandem with the Alaska-specific online PeerMentoringWorks training course; this inspired coupling ensures the team provides peer mentors and peer mentor coordinators the knowledge and background necessary to deliver mentoring services in the state of Alaska. The course includes 13 modules designed to provide a solid understanding of peer mentoring basics; resources and mentoring techniques; an overview of program guidelines and expectations; as well as an understanding of mentor, mentee and mentor coordinator roles and responsibilities. The course includes pathways tailored towards both mentors and mentor coordinators, and upon successful completion participants receive a certificate.

The pilot PolicyWorks Peer Mentoring Program targets consumers receiving services at VR agencies is to assist young individuals with disabilities to transition from secondary education to postsecondary education and employment. Peer mentoring will be used to empower young people with disabilities through influence; teaching skills including communication, self-determination, and self-advocacy. The expected outcome of this project is a measurable increase in engagement and service to Alaska’s youth, with emphasis on those who are traditionally underserved.

For additional information on Alaska’s PeerMentoringWorks course please contact Ciara at or Nicona at For those interested in bringing the PeerMentoringWorks program to your state, please contact Barbara at