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WHAT WORKS: Ready and Able to Work

The New York State Education Department awarded sixty Model Transition Programs (MTP) in 2007 to school districts throughout the New York State, including several school districts in Tompkins County, to improve post-secondary education outcomes (i.e., participation in employment, post-secondary education, and connection with vocational rehabilitation system) for students with disabilities. The overarching principles of the MTP were to (1) strengthen partnerships between the New York State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) system and high schools; (2) increase participation of youth in employment, VR-related services, and post-secondary education, and (3) develop partnerships between the schools and community service partners, including colleges/universities and businesses.

Cornell University’s Employment and Disability Institute and the 60 MTPs collected information for eighteen months on MTP students, educational programs and agency partners.  Quarterly updates regarding the VR/transition statuses and related activities for over 16,000 students provided critical, detailed information regarding effective career development, work experience, and planning among school and community partners. As part of EDI’s knowledge translation strategy, Ithaca-based filmmakers Ann Michel and Phil Wilde from Insights International, Inc. created a video series for use with educators.

From the footage taken across New York State, including several scenes taken from the Ithaca area, several stories were unexpectedly captured.  The following stories profile innovation and a fearless commitment to supporting youth with disabilities as they develop their careers during and beyond high school:

Daisy wants to be a masseuse.  She hasn’t told anyone about her plans.  During the summer between her sophomore and junior year in high school she participates in a job readiness program at her school.  There she learns how to write a resume, conduct a job search, and she practices interviewing for a job.   This experience “gives her the guts” to approach a small business on her own, and she lands her dream job there.

Allison loved shop in high school.  The owner of Celestory Woodworks took a chance on her by bringing her in to work with them.  She surprised them with her skill and motivation, quickly moving up from floor sweeper to finish work.

Michael knows more than most kids about audio production.  As an autistic child he spent hours and hours at home playing with tape recorders.  At his BOCES high school he learned about digital audio production, and his teacher there hired him to work at a local radio station.

Damian works at the 69th Regiment Armory in Manhattan as a school teacher.  Every year he teaches special ed kids how to fix just about everything in this huge ancient fortress, from plumbing to electric work to painting, while earning their high school diplomas.

David is interested in a landscaping career, but knows very little about what it means.  Bob is a retired groundskeeper in the Town of Ogden who is very willing to supervise David as a summer intern at the Town parks and offices, maintaining their grounds. David learns that this job is something he very much enjoys doing.

Yvrose, the principal of a public high school,The Brooklyn Transition Center,  provides job training as the core of the school curriculum.  Her efforts to provide practical on the job education coupled with active parent involvement are an excellent example of What Works to educate a student who is Ready and Able to Work.

Insights was formed in 1980. We became Insights International, Inc. in 1990.