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