The Power of Mentoring Relationships

In honor of National Mentoring Month, Blair Phillips from the Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program (RAMP) site at Peckham, Inc. in Lansing, MI, shares a mentor and mentee story highlighting the power of mentoring relationships.

“Behind every successful person, there’s a mentor
who helped them along the way.”

At the beginning of September, a young 14-year-old, African-American girl joined the Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program (RAMP).  In school, this young lady was labeled a “troubled teen.”  The year before she enrolled in RAMP, her attendance was poor and she was often suspended.  Many teachers spoke of her in low regard and claimed she needed “to get her act together” or she would become another statistic.  Due to the negative attitudes towards this student, it appeared she developed a negative self-fulfilling prophecy.  She seemed to think she would fail—no matter what she did.

When the RAMP Coordinator began to get to know this student, the young lady shared she does not have support at home.  She stated that she remains in her room and does not have close relationships with any family members.  She explicitly told the RAMP Coordinator that she did not want a mentor because it would be “a waste of everyone’s time.”  However, little did we all know, a mentor was about to change her world.

In September 2017, this young lady met a potential mentor from the local community college.  This mentor has experienced hardship and, when she was an adolescent, she was involved with the juvenile justice system.  However, now, she is attending college, working full-time, and is actively engaged in the community.

At first, the RAMP student wanted absolutely nothing to do with the mentor.  She would not verbally engage with the mentor, but non-verbally, she displayed her disinterest in building a relationship with her. Nevertheless, the mentor continued to treat the student with respect, and did not succumb to the negative attitudes of school staff.  The mentor was strength-based and commended the student on positive behaviors.  Eventually, the student’s walls began to deteriorate.

One day, during RAMP session, the mentor offered to take the student to get frozen yogurt, and, from there, an amazing mentor/mentee relationship truly blossomed.  After this outing, the student began to open up to her mentor.  She shared that she often starts fights at school due to others bullying her.  She showed her mentor messages and notes that were written about her.  The student explained that she was trying to stand up for herself, and when she would explain that to school staff, no one believed her.  Together, they advocated.  They met with the principal and addressed many hidden issues the student was experiencing.

Along with their advocacy, they have shared many fun activities together!  They have gone to dinner, attended movies, gone rollerblading, volunteered, attended a motivational speaker event, and the student was able to ice skate for the first time!

This particular mentor and mentee demonstrates how important it is to give every youth a chance!  This young lady could have easily flown under the radar and lived up to her negative self-fulfilling prophecy, but an important individual came along, invested in her, and continues to show her the way!

Learn more about how to implement career-focused mentoring strategies by reading Paving the Way to Work: A Guide to Career-Focused Mentoring.

More information about RAMP is available online at

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Taking Notice of National Reentry Week

By Rita Musello-Kelliher, Program Associate at the Institute for Educational Leadership

IEL joins youth and communities across the country in celebrating National Reentry Week 2017 from April 24-28. It is a time to highlight the benefits of successful reentry and importance of improving reentry outcomes. In 2016, the Department of Justice sponsored over 550 events in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands for the inaugural National Reentry Week. These events showcased the momentum behind reentry improvement as well as the diverse array of stakeholders involved. US Attorney’s Offices alone hosted over 200 events, while Bureau of Prisons facilities held more than 370, including resource fairs, employment-related events, reentry presentations, and family-related events. Connecting formerly-incarcerated individuals with opportunities and key supports offers them a pathway to employment, continued learning opportunities, and independent living, which in turn benefits the community as a whole.

Through the Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program (RAMP) and Right Turn Career-Focused Transition Initiative (Right Turn) IEL focuses on providing court-involved youth with the resources they need to reconnect with their communities. RAMP, funded by the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, uses career-focused mentoring to prevent at-risk youth from offending, though it also serves youth who are already involved with the system. For example, one youth from Houston had served nearly a year in a juvenile detention facility when he joined the program. He was having a number of problems with transitioning back to school—high incidence of truancy and serious conduct issues, to the point where he had to be taken out of classes and placed in a behavioral modification program. RAMP staff helped him come up with strategies to change his behavior through developing his Individualized Mentoring Plan and weekly goals. He participated in career-focused group and individual mentoring sessions in which he worked on homework, put together a resume and applied for jobs. Today, his school reports that his behavior and attendance have improved by leaps and bounds. He is even an active member in the drama program and has expressed a newfound passion for theater. Due to improved attendance and lack of new charges, this youth’s probation case was successfully closed.

In the Department of Labor’s Education and Training Administration-funded Right Turn, on the other hand, at least 90% of youth are already court-involved. As part of the reentry process, staff works with newly enrolled youth to identify their skills and interests before connecting them to the education, credentialing, and employment opportunities they need to follow their career path of interest. One young man came to the Right Turn program in Reno, Nevada after being referred by his probation officer. At the time, his main goals were to be employed for the first time and to find a way to complete his community service hours for school credit. Today, he is 17 years old and attending College Prep High School. After participating in a series of Right Turn Work Readiness Workshops, he is employed in his first job as a cashier at a Fuddruckers right by his school. He also participates in a number of Restorative Justice Projects and volunteers at a local church to complete his community service hours. To further his plans to pursue a career in Business, Right Turn helped him research information on financial analysts and brokers during the career exploration process. As a result, the young man has toured business programs at a number of institutions in Reno. He is on track to graduate with a high school degree in June 2017 and is enrolled in college for the fall. He continues to be a valued employee at Fuddruckers and plans to work part time while he gets his college education.

Right Turn aims to not only support youth in their reentry process, but also to empower them to become self-advocates and agents for positive change in their communities. A Right Turn site in Syracuse is creating two paid Youth Ambassador Positions for those who have successfully completed the program. Youth Ambassadors will attend outreach events for community stakeholders, work to engage incoming participants through word-of –mouth and at youth information meetings, design and lead Restorative Justice Projects where their peers give back to the community, and assist with program events. Elevating youth voice and youth leadership in this way is a key component to all of IEL’s work and involves youth as the solution in their own lives and their communities. During Reentry Week and throughout the year, IEL is proud of these youth who have chosen to transform their lives and their communities and pleased to provide strategies and resources to support this work.

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National Disability Employment Awareness Month

RSA Commissioner Janet LaBreckThe following blog is a cross-post from the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) blog. The blog is written by OSERS’ Rehabilitation Services Administration Commissioner Janet LaBreck.

In recognition of National Disability Employment Month, I would like to share some exciting new opportunities for the vocational rehabilitation (VR) program, which is authorized by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 under Title IV of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). As you know, WIOA was signed into law by President Obama on July 22, 2014 and is designed to strengthen and improve our nation’s public workforce system and help Americans with significant barriers to employment, including individuals with disabilities, obtain high quality jobs and careers and help employers hire and retain skilled workers. The changes to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 under Title IV of WIOA had a profound impact on individuals with disabilities, especially those with significant disabilities and students and youth with disabilities transitioning from education to employment. These provisions strengthen opportunities for individuals with disabilities to acquire the skills and supports necessary to maximize their potential and enter competitive integrated employment. The final implementing regulations for the VR program adhere to three key goals:

  1. Align the VR program with the workforce development system;
  2. Strengthen VR’s focus on competitive integrated employment; and
  3. Expand VR services to students and youth with disabilities.

While these are many new opportunities and innovations under WIOA, I would like to share just a few that I believe will have a positive impact on employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities:

Strengthened emphasis on competitive integrated employment (CIE):

  1. The definition of “competitive integrated employment” in the implementing regulations has three major components related to competitive earnings, integrated locations, and opportunities for advancement.

Emphasis on transition services, including pre-employment transition services:

  1. WIOA expands the population of students with disabilities who may receive services and the kinds of services that the VR agencies may provide to youth and students with disabilities who are transitioning from school to postsecondary education and employment.
  2. WIOA emphasizes the provision of services to students and youth with disabilities to ensure they have opportunities to receive the training and other services necessary to achieve competitive integrated employment.
  3. WIOA increases opportunities to practice and improve workplace skills, such as through internships and other work-based learning opportunities.

Emphasis on employer engagement:

  1. RSA has begun the process of working with employers through a series of Round Table discussions that were held in FY 2016. These focused on the following sectors:
    • Federal contracting,
    • healthcare,
    • banking, and
    • information technology sectors.
  2. RSA will continue to work with state agencies to increase employer engagement.
  3. RSA encourages State VR agencies to meet employer needs by focusing on working with human resource firms and organizations that focus on diversity and talent acquisition.

Collaborative opportunities to work with partners across the workforce development system:

  1. WIOA promotes program alignment at the Federal, State, local, and regional levels; establishes common performance measures across core programs; encourages common data systems across core programs; builds on proven practices such as sector strategies, career pathways, regional economic approaches, work-based training; strengthens alignment between adult education, postsecondary education, and employers; strengthens transition services and supports for students and youth with disabilities; and emphasizes the achievement of competitive integrated employment by individuals with disabilities.
  2. Federal Partners—RSA is working with various partners at the Federal level, including the other WIOA core partners (Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education, the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services), and other Federal agencies such as the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  3. State agencies are collaborating and partnering with a variety of organizations to bring about improvements, including state and local workforce development partners, disability specific training and education programs (e.g. Gallaudet University, National Technical Institute for the Deaf, and the Florida State University’s Visual Disabilities Program, research and training programs (e.g. the National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision at Mississippi State University, innovative work based learning programs (e.g. Café Reconcile, Student Transition to Employment Project), and many other partners.

RSA’s new focus on technical assistance and demonstration projects:

  1. To provide leadership and resources to grantees and stakeholders, RSA created a series of training and technical assistance centers (TACs) and demonstration projects to assist state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies and their partners in providing VR and other services to individuals with disabilities.
  2. Focus on Career Pathways—In FY 2015, RSA awarded a grant to focus on Career Pathways for Individuals with Disabilities (CPID) model demonstration program in Georgia, Kentucky, Nebraska, and Virginia. The purpose of the program is to demonstrate replicable promising practices in the use of career pathways to enable VR-eligible individuals with disabilities, including youth with disabilities, to acquire marketable skills and recognized postsecondary credentials and to secure competitive integrated employment in high-demand, high-quality occupations. Program activities are being designed and implemented in partnership with secondary and postsecondary educational institutions, American Job Centers, workforce training providers, social and human service organizations, employers, and other Federal career pathways initiatives.
  3. Identifying new models and looking forward—Automated Personalization Computing Project (APCP)—The purpose of the APCP is to improve outcomes for individuals with disabilities by increasing access to information and communication technologies (ICT) through automatic personalization of needed assistive technology (AT). Under the APCP, an information technology (IT) infrastructure would be created to allow users of ICT to store preferences in the cloud or other technology, which then would allow supported Internet–capable devices they are using to automatically run their preferred AT solutions. This IT infrastructure will ultimately provide better educational opportunities, ease transitions between school and the workforce, and improve productivity in the workplace.

I am confident that these innovations and opportunities will result in improved employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities. I look forward to seeing what other innovations are yet to come, and invite you to look ahead with me.

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Recognizing Youth Service Professionals by Prioritizing their Professional Development

By Kathryn Nichols, Consultant, National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth at the Institute for Educational Leadership

Group photo of all YWLA graduates holding their certificatesIt’s National Workforce Development Month – a time to recognize the contributions of workforce development professionals who play a vital role in preparing and assisting youth and adult jobseekers to be successful in finding and maintaining employment. For over a decade, the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD/Youth) has been working to promote the value of and further grow a professional development system for youth service professionals in the workforce development system. This work includes partnering with agencies and organizations across the U.S. to plan and deliver training and technical assistance to youth service professionals in order to develop their competencies to work effectively with all youth.

Over the past two years, NCWD/Youth has been supporting professional development for youth service professionals in Washington, DC through an initiative called the Youth Workforce Leaders Academy. This ten-month professional development opportunity is co-led by the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates and the Institute for Educational Leadership (NCWD/Youth’s host organization) with support from the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region’s Greater Washington Workforce Collaborative and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy.

The Academy engages a cohort of 15 professionals in monthly day-long learning sessions focused on best practices for assisting youth in transition to employment, postsecondary education, and adulthood. The Academy’s professional learning community model provides a rare opportunity for participants to develop a strong network of peers from other local organizations and agencies. This affords opportunities for peer-to-peer learning and opens doors to building collaborations and better coordinating services to youth in the city.

Training in core competencies for youth service professionals combined with peer-to-peer learning and networking has proven to be a powerful professional development vehicle for youth service professionals. As one Academy participant put it, “It has been very valuable to meet other people doing similar work in the city. I enjoy learning about their strategies that work and learning about their programs.”

In the human services sector, it’s easy to take professional development for granted and hard to make time and space for learning new or improved strategies and skills for doing the work. But it’s so important and can be so impactful when we provide high quality professional development opportunities. When asked to describe the benefits of completing the Academy, another participant shared, “I have grown so much as a professional through YWLA. Through the connections I’ve made with other youth workforce professionals and the immense amount of resources, both tangible and intangible, I am a much stronger, more aware, more thoughtful professional. I have gained confidence in my work and an amazing amount of knowledge, skills, and abilities that I didn’t have or didn’t know I had just a few months ago.”

When it’s all said and done, the real value of professional development depends upon professionals taking what they learn back to their organizations and using it to improve their work with youth. Academy graduate Martin Copeland, Curriculum Outreach Manager at Urban Alliance, recently shared with us how he’s using what he gained from the professional development opportunity:
dsc_0768“As Urban Alliance embarks on a HUGE project to rewrite our entire curriculum, I find myself referencing things as I speak to my partner-in-writing. ‘How do you think students with disabilities will respond to this activity?’ ‘I think we should have an assessment included in each of our workshops moving forward.’ Then I think, ‘Where has all of this come from?’ “

“THANK YOU SO MUCH for all that you put into YWLA and for the opportunity to learn and to be so connected. This was more than I ever thought it could be. As we write, my YWLA binder is right at my side!  You all are the best!”

The benefits of professional development are evident in these comments. Investing in the development of those working with youth in the workforce development system can improve the quality of services and programs leading to greater results for youth. In addition to recognizing all that youth workforce development professionals do this month, let’s also recommit to supporting their development by making high quality professional development for workforce development professionals a priority in all our communities across the country.

Learn more about YWLA from our host organization, the Institute for Educational Leadership and from our partner, the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates!

Read more about the 2016 graduates and their Capstone projects!

Related professional development resources for those in the workforce development system:





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A Capital Trip by MJ Smyth

The following blog is a cross-post from

Every year, the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL), which leads the Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program (RAMP), holds an Annual Meeting in Washington D.C. for youth participants and coordinators. This year, the meeting took place from Wednesday, August 3 through Friday, August 5. This is a meeting in which youth from the 10 RAMP sites throughout the country come together and participate in activities, training, presentations of high tech projects, a tour of our Nation’s Capital, a college tour, and career exploration. The following is one Albany RAMP youth’s Washington D.C. experience. 

Have you ever had a chance to go on an adventure to somewhere… different than what you’re used to? That’s a great feeling, isn’t it? It was for me, anyway. This is my story of an adventure that I very much enjoyed, a trip to Washington D.C.

A little backstory before we begin, my name is MJ Smyth, and I was invited to the RAMP annual meeting in Washington D.C. I went with my site’s coordinator, Elijah, and my good mate Anthony. The trip was three days, August 3rd, 4th and 5th. It was a splendid vacation and I got to relax, something I rarely get to do anymore. So, without further ado, let us begin, appropriately, at the beginning…

It was about 6 AM, on Wednesday, August 3, when my mother woke me up to tell me to get ready for the trip. As I had already packed the night before, I was well aware where everything was. I took a shower, washed up, made my bed and got ready to leave. Less than an hour later, Elijah pulled up. He had just gotten back from his own vacation (ironically), so he was ready for the LONG drive to Washington. After saying goodbye to my mom, I got into the car. Now I won’t bore you with the mundane details of the car ride, because I was listening to music like seventy-five percent of the way, so in all honesty, I have no clue what happened between Anthony and Elijah.

We got to D.C. about 2:30 that afternoon. It was a good feeling to stand up. I hadn’t done so since we stopped at a Dunkin’ Donuts in Jersey almost four hours prior. We took our baggage and went to the lobby. Now, the first thing I wanted to do was get to the room that Anthony and I would share and change my clothes, but as we were already late, we’d have to postpone that idea. Instead, we had to head into the room where everyone was meeting. I was anxious but confident, Anthony and I had been working on a video game (I know, awesome right?), and we knew it would steal the show.

Now, two things going forward; first, I am not going to be addressing any other youth by their names, as that could put them in an uncomfortable position, and no one likes that. Secondly, am only going to be pointing out the few that I remember, it was quite a bit ago as of my writing this and not everything is exactly perfect.

Upon walking into the room, I noticed a sort-of cold impression, as if everybody already seemed to know each other, except for this one kid sitting at another table, but I’ll get to him later. Now, Anthony is the type of kid who wants to make friends with everybody. He does exceptionally well in that aspect, he is likable and kind. Case-in-point, the first thing he did was make friends with a girl from California. We had been in there about ten minutes, literally! I, on the other hand, had quite the opposite effect on the youth. I was trying to come off as mature, and as Anthony had made a rather inappropriate comment I was looking more mature, if more distant one of us.

After Anthony and I had joined the rest of the youth in a mentorship meeting, we were FINALLY able to get into our hotel room. While Anthony unpacked and got comfortable, I hopped onto my bed and plugged in my electronics. My tablet, which hadn’t been charging properly in a long time, actually started charging correctly. I was overjoyed. Soon, I noticed that the television in our room was a Smart T.V. So, I connected my tablet to it and watched some YouTube videos on the big screen. Anthony came back as soon as I began watching some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We had a blast watching one of my favorite episodes “The Foot Soldiers Are Revolting!”

Soon afterward, we went up to Union Station and had dinner at one of the restaurants there, Johnny Rockets’. I just had some french fries as I wasn’t too hungry. After dinner, we went to F.Y.E. Anthony found a fake sword and wanted to buy it. Elijah was surprised, as was I, but it was something he wanted, so he got it. Upon returning to the hotel room, Anthony and I watched some more Turtles, and when I wanted to discuss the issue of our presentation with Anthony, but he passed out before we could continue our discussion. As I didn’t want to disturb his sleep, I just took a shower, used the bathrobe, and watched “Friends” before passing out, at four in the morning, having to get up in less than two hours.

The next morning I was exhausted, and Anthony could tell. I was still acting the same as I was before, but more genuinely tired and irritated. That didn’t affect Anthony at all, seemingly. It was later when I could tell something was wrong, but I digress. Today was day two, and that meant it was college tour day. We would be touring George Washington College. Anthony and I were split apart for the college tour, and I met a young man from Texas. He and I discussed the college at length and decided it wasn’t our speed. You see, my friend from Texas wants to be an airplane mechanic. I want to be a public transportation operator, so our jobs would be in a somewhat similar field. Of course, his job would be significantly more important than mine. In any case, the college tour was rather interesting, but the most enjoyable part would be after lunch, the pool party!

After the college tour, Elijah, Anthony and I headed a block down to Walmart. As Anthony had a lot of snacks, and I had exhausted my resources on the drive to D.C. I wanted to get some munchies to last me the remainder of the trip. So, that was the point of that mission. I went to get some Pop-Tarts, Hawaiian Punch, and a Giant Hershey’s Cookies and Cream bar. All the while, Anthony was looking rather glum and I wanted to know what was up.

When we got back to the hotel, we had a bit of time before the pool party, so I asked Anthony what was wrong. He didn’t get into too many details, but I could tell he was having a bit of trouble with his relationship. I told him some good advice, which anyone can take: “If this was meant to be, you’ll patch things up, if it wasn’t, she’s not the one.” Anthony gave me a hug, and we went up to the pool. This, however, would not be the last time today Anthony would be having these problems.

When we got to the pool, everyone was already there playing pool volleyball. Anthony and I got on opposite teams, so it was myself, the young man from Texas and a young man from Michigan, against Anthony and the California kids. Now, I hadn’t been in a pool for almost two years prior to this, so my team was at a disadvantage. However, we had great fun and ended up winning anyway. Soon afterward, everybody except for myself, Anthony and the kid from Texas remained. We had a lot of fun in the pool just hamming it up and throwing each other around. There was one more thing on the itinerary for that day, the D.C. Tour!

About an hour or two later, Anthony and I were on a tour bus with everyone else. Elijah got on too, so it was going to be an enjoyable trip. The tour guide was very interesting, and showed us several sites, but as soon as we got to Capitol Hill, Anthony started walking away. Some of the adults started chasing him, but he wasn’t talking. After a long period of sulking, I was finally able to get him to listen to me, he was overly upset about his girlfriend. By the end of the day, however, he was feeling better, just in time for our presentation. Back to the tour, however, something interesting that happened was that I cracked my limited edition Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles watch in front of the White House. I hadn’t been that angry in a while. Toward the end of the day, we stopped at the Lincoln Memorial. Stopping at the steps, I looked out into the horizon. Something told me that my worst years were over. It was a positive feeling. After that little epiphany, we went back to the hotel to get ready for our presentation.

Finally, the big day came. Anthony was ready, I was dressed up fairly professionally and we were ready to knock out this presentation. As the third and final day started coming to an elegant end. Finally, it came to our presentation. As everyone watched attentively, Anthony and I gave everyone a blow-by-blow of the game and what it was about. The result? Standing ovation! We were loved by everyone. Things went great. Anthony was overjoyed and I was happy myself. This was a crowning achievement in my heart, and his as well.

So that was my trip to Washington D.C. I hope that you enjoyed reading, hearing or however you acquired the knowledge about it. I am certainly blessed to have a program like R.A.M.P in my life, and if you ever get the chance to join up. I implore you to do so. You have no idea what you’re missing. I’d like to recite a line one of the youth said during this trip “Say no to drugs and say yes to jumping!” Farewell.


Learn more about RAMP and check out some of the related publications:

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The Summer Job

The following blog is a cross-post from the New York Association of Training and Employment Professionals (NYATEP) and appeared in the August, 2016 issue of “Workforce Buzz”. The blog is written by Colin Williams, an NYATEP Summer Intern.

Each summer NYATEP hires at least one “summer youth” intern, this year we have brought back Colin Williams who recently graduated from Bishop Maginn High School in Albany, and is headed to college this fall in Rhode Island. We think a critical aspect of summer youth work is having our interns contribute directly to the work products of the office, therefore we asked Colin to compose two articles for upcoming issues of the Workforce Buzz, that reflect his unique opinion and point of view as a young adult. Below is his first article on what a summer job is like for a youth.

At the ripe age of seventeen all you really need is a car and a full tank of gas. For teenagers, these two individual images represent a freedom that has been limited since the time of birth. The exciting feeling of being able to go wherever you want to go is now in your grasps and the ability to do whatever you want to do (for the most part) can be achieved. Unfortunately, these symbols of teenage liberation cannot be produced without the presence of green slips of paper that fit perfectly into a traditional wallet. Enter: The Summer Job.

Summer work has always been considered one of the largest elephants in the room around the dinner table during the months of April and May. We know we have to tackle the daunting tasks of filling out applications and creating resumes. In my opinion, at the core of what makes it daunting is not in the actual application; instead the fear of rejection. Generally, as Millennials were raised in a society where everyone receives a trophy, the concept of losing is foreign to us. Now when there is an opportunity where we might lose (i.e. not get the job), we become scared, and without the right support it might just mean we do nothing at all, paralyzed.

Once we move past the stage of fear we enter the stage of waiting. This means that all of our applications are in and we are waiting for the call or email back. The sad truth of this matter is that often these calls never come. The even more depressing truth is that down the road, these calls will come even less. Pressures like the minimum wage, automation, and older people taking part-time work in retirement or just to make ends meet, mean looking for work in the summer is a lot different than when our parents had to do it. Congratulations, you got the job. What’s next? Well, for starters you will be getting up early in the morning and getting home late at night. After all, you want to make money, right? Wrong. Your paycheck will not be as large as you thought it would be after taxes are taken out. That’s alright; you will have a chance to meet new people including that very loud woman who is yelling at you for not bagging her groceries fast enough. Sometimes summer jobs are not always what we expect. In fact, summer jobs tend to be less about the money and more about the learning experience. You will learn dependability. You will learn that not everything is handed to you on a silver platter. Most importantly, you will learn basic people skills. All of these learned forms of human capital will outweigh the short term physical capital in the long run.

After all was said and done, you finally bought that car and filled it up with unleaded juice. You can do anything now. You have confidence because you conquered your fear, you are happy because you beat out all of those other applicants, and you are smarter now that you learned a few life lessons. The only question now is, where should you go?

Check out some related resources from NCWD/Youth that can help youth make a successful transition to summer employment!

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A Collaborative Learning Community to Benefit Youth and Young People with Disabilities

Photograph of Jessica Queener The following blog is a cross-post from, the official blog of The blog is written by Jessica Queener, Communications and Outreach Manager at the Youth Transitions Collaborative and the National Youth Transitions Center. NCWD/Youth’s host organization, the Institute for Educational Leadership is a proud member of the Youth Transitions Collaborative!

The Youth Transitions Collaborative (YTC) is a community of organizations that share the goal of empowering youth and young people with disabilities to create a self-directed path to adulthood and employment, and to participate in and contribute to society. The National Youth Transitions Center (NYTC) provides a single location in the nation’s capital for modeling cross-systems collaboration and improving the transition services available to youth and young people, their families and communities. As an innovative “collaborative community,” the NYTC provides opportunities for nonprofits serving youth and young people to build capacity, create new partnerships and benefit from its national agenda. This national agenda is comprised of policy and advocacy efforts, innovative research and cross-sector collaborations that stimulate new thinking and learning across the country.

The NYTC is the focal point of the Collaborative’s community. This by-invitation-only membership group, facilitated by The HSC Foundation, is comprised of over 50 regional and national organizations with a commitment to serving youth and young people with disabilities. These organizations are united by shared values and a desire to be stronger together, providing direct services, expertise and guidance for the Center. The Collaborative also serves as the basis for The HSC Foundation’s efforts to build the capacity of nonprofit organizations serving the disability and youth communities, and to create a cohesive community among these organizations. They also participate in a variety of programming initiatives that provide further opportunities to partner on topics including advocacy, career preparation and employment.

Programming Initiatives

Work Early, Work Often

Work Early, Work Often” is a video-based campaign created by the YTC’s career preparation and management working group. Together, the three-part video campaign highlights the importance of work and work-based experiences on an individual’s transition to adulthood, particularly for young people with disabilities. Each storyline focuses on a different subject and narrative, told from the perspective of key audiences that are part of the transition journey. Currently, only 20.6 percent of youth and young adults with disabilities participate in the labor force, compared to 69 percent of individuals without disabilities (U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy, 2016). The campaign includes videos for:

  • Young Adults with Disabilities: Hear from a young professional how her early work experiences helped lead to long-term success.
  • Employers of Adults with Disabilities: Listen to employers discuss how exposing young adults with disabilities to real work experiences can help to meet the needs of a business and improve their bottom line.
  • Parents/Caregivers of Young Adults with Disabilities: Watch a powerful story unfold as a mother describes “letting go” when her son entered the world of work.

To watch the videos individually or as a series, or

Advocates in Disability Award

The Advocates in Disability Award (ADA) program honors a young person with a disability between the ages of 14 and 26 who is dedicated to positively affecting the lives of people with disabilities and their families in the U.S. The program also supports an innovative project developed by the award recipient that benefits the U.S. disability community. The selected recipient is awarded $3,000 in recognition of past disability advocacy and will receive up to $7,000 in additional funding for their proposed project to benefit the disability community. The ADA is presented annually by The HSC Foundation and the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation.

The 2016 ADA Award Recipient                                 

Sara Luterman, who was diagnosed with autism and partial blindness, began her advocacy work after graduating from Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland in creative writing. In addition to creating NOS Magazine, a blog about neurodiversity news, culture and representation, she currently works as a program assistant at the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), sits on the board for the Association for Autistic Community and acts as a part of the Individual Advocacy Group to help protect the rights of adults who need assistance living independently. Her writing has also been featured in The Guardian and The Atlantic and she served as an expert on a HuffPost Live segment about Hillary Clinton’s autism policy.

Federal Alliance

The Alliance between the YTC, the U.S. Department of Labor’sOffice of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), the Maternal and Child Health Bureau and The National Alliance to Advance Adolescent Health (Got Transition) has focused on improving health care transition and employment of youth and young people with disabilities. The Alliance Partners have created acareer and health checklist for youth and young people with disabilities that was released in July 2015 in coordination with the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Career development is a critical step to employment for youth with disabilities, which addresses how youth prepare for going to work and having careers. Many young people, particularly youth with disabilities and chronic health conditions, don’t have the opportunity to gain work skills and practice work (National Collaborative on Workforce and Development, 2015).

ODEP provides national leadership by developing and influencing disability employment-related policies and practices affecting an increase in the employment of people with disabilities. A sub-cabinet level policy agency within the Department of Labor, ODEP recognizes the need for a national policy to ensure that people with disabilities are fully integrated into the 21st Century workforce.

HEATH Resource Center

The HEATH Resource Center, managed by The George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development, is an online clearinghouse of post-secondary education resources for people with disabilities. It serves as the NYTC’s official resource site. HEATH gathers, develops and disseminates information such as self-directed learning modules on topics like self-advocacy and post-secondary options, quarterly newsletters highlighting the latest research, guidance on financial aid for students with disabilities and many more up-to-date resources.

Because the Future Needs Everyone

Youth and young people with disabilities often confront serious obstacles as they transition from adolescence to adulthood and from school to work. By having timely interventions and supportive services, these challenges can be transformed into moments of opportunity. NYTC is committed to helping young people with disabilities achieve their greatest level of independence and accomplishment. The Center brings together the resources of multiple organizations to provide transition-related services, research, evaluation, best practices, public policy guidance and innovative projects. The success of their collaboration is measured by the number of young people empowered to thrive in the workplace and in their communities.

To stay up to date on the latest youth transition information and resources, please follow the NYTC on Facebook and Twitter.

If you have any questions about the NYTC or the YTC, contact Jessica Queener at

Posted in Community Partnerships, Inclusion, Transition | Comments Off on A Collaborative Learning Community to Benefit Youth and Young People with Disabilities

Student Takes a Right Turn

The following blog is a cross-post from the official blog of the U.S. Department of Labor. The blog is written by Lisa Fitch, an executive assistant for Playa Vista Job Opportunities and Business Services (PVJOBS) in Los Angeles, CA. PVJOBS is one of the sites in IEL’s Right Turn Career-Focused Transition Initiative, based on NCWD/Youth foundational materials like Making The Right Turn: A Guide About Improving Transition Outcomes For Youth Involved In The Juvenile Corrections System.

Armonte Patton in his cap and gown at graduation, speaking at the podiumFor Armonte Patton, the joyful May graduation day stood in stark contrast to a somber August day that set his life on a spiral four years ago.

“My grandma passed away,” he told the graduating class of Mission View Charter School during his commencement speech. “It happened when I was at football practice. The pain really brought me down.”

Armonte’s grandmother had been his guardian, raising him for years. Since his mother was addicted to drugs, Armonte moved in with his father, who was often in and out of jail.

Depressed, Armonte started hanging out with the wrong crowd, and he even lost interest in the varsity football team, where his talents had helped lead Westminister High School to two championships.

“I became accustomed to a lifestyle of crime,” he told his classmates and guests at graduation. “I started smoking, hanging out late, and ducking and dodging the police. It was like walking through the gates of hell and I didn’t seem to notice, but everyone else did.”

To complete his high school education, Armonte attended Mission View Charter School, which is housed in the offices of Playa Vista Job Opportunities and Business Services in South Los Angeles. Mission View staff in turn connected him with the PVJOBS Right Turn program for coaching and career services.

PVJOBS has operated two consecutive U.S. Department of Labor-funded programs since 2012, including the Right Turn program, which addresses employment barriers of court-involved youth while helping them attain in-demand skills they need for career success.

The program serves young people 14 to 25, like Armonte, by providing case management, academic coaching, occupational training, career pathway planning and mentoring.

Youth are viewed as active participants throughout the entire process; their input, needs and desires are the driving force to developing their individualized career development plans, which provide an outline of what the participant will accomplish throughout the program. These plans list areas of interest, network links, career exploration recommendations, goals, steps and a timeline for completion.

The Right Turn program made all the difference for Armonte, who rediscovered his motivation to excel and who also encouraged other young people in the program to stay in school. He’s also looking forward to working out this summer with the football team at El Camino Community College, where he’s enrolled for school this fall. Ultimately he would like to transfer to a four-year university and pursue a career as a probation officer, in order to help other young people get their lives back on track.

Armonte shared his plans during his graduation speech and smiled with pride.

“So as you leave out those doors today,” he told his classmates. “Just remember: pain is temporary, but accomplishment is forever.”


Posted in Career Exploration, Career Preparation, Community Partnerships, Guideposts for Success, Juvenile Justice, Mentoring, Transition | Comments Off on Student Takes a Right Turn

Building on Success: Celebrating the Launch of the New Right Turn Program Sites

Headshot: Patricia GillBy Patricia D. Gill, Senior Program Associate, National Collaborative on Workforce & Disability for Youth at the Institute for Educational Leadership

Last December, NCWD/Youth’s host organization, the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL), was proud to announce the selection of four new sites across the country for its Right Turn Career-Focused Transition Initiative (Right Turn). The Right Turn program model uses an individualized, strengths-based approach to connect youth who are involved with, or at-risk of becoming involved with, the juvenile justice system to the career preparation, continued education, and additional wraparound services necessary for them to positively reconnect to their communities and obtain meaningful employment opportunities. The four new Right Turn sites are Lawrence Hall Youth Services in Chicago, IL; The Children’s Cabinet in Reno, NV; Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, NY; and Peckham, Inc. in Lansing, MI.

Today, as this second round of sites are enrolling youth, IEL wanted to provide a little more information about these new sites, share updates on the success of the first five Right Turn sites, and highlight some enhancements to the Right Turn model.

At the orientation meeting, the four new sites learned more from IEL about the foundations of Right Turn, including NCWD/Youth’s Guideposts for Success for Youth Involved in the Juvenile Corrections System and Individualized Learning Plan work, and the major components of the Right Turn model, including career-focused mentoring, workforce preparation, education and training, restorative justice service learning projects, and a full range of supports. In addition, each site had an opportunity to share the diversity of expertise they bring to the work. For example, Onondaga Community College will deploy its deep background in education and credentialing to help youth gain the qualifications they will need to work in high-demand industries. Lawrence Hall will bring its history as a child welfare agency dating back to the Civil War to inform its launch of Right Turn on Chicago’s South Side, where these types of services and supports are in high demand and short supply. Meanwhile, Peckham and The Children’s Cabinet will bring their extensive experience with comprehensive programs similar to the Right Turn model to hit the ground running and help other sites do the same. Site collaboration and cross-systems cooperation will be key to the success of these sites.

These new sites will also have the advantage of building on the success of the first five sites: Playa Vista Job Opportunities and Business Services (PV JOBS) in Los Angeles, California; Goodwill Industries of Houston in Houston, Texas; KentuckianaWorks, The Greater Louisville Workforce Investment Board in Louisville, Kentucky; Oasis Center, Transitions Program in Nashville, Tennessee; and Peckham, Inc in Lansing, Michigan (a returning site). During the first two years of Right Turn, these five sites enrolled 1019 youth, including 956 (94%) who were currently or previously involved with the juvenile justice system of which 659 were directly referred to the program by the juvenile justice system. Each youth worked with their case manager to develop an Individualized Career Development Plan (ICDP) which included a wide-range of services, supports, and opportunities to help youth reach their personal and career goals. Some of these services and opportunities included: work readiness training and life skills counseling (95%), leadership development activities (88%), career-focused mentoring (80%), job placement services (70%), academic counseling (69%), college-bound activities (62%), and restorative justice projects (54%). Right Turn’s holistic strengths-based and career-focused approach achieved impressive short-term outcomes in two years, including:

  • 82% of out-of-school participants ages 18 and above were placed in jobs, post-secondary education, or occupational training
  • 81% of youth ages 17 and below remained in school for 12 months or more
  • 67% of 17 year olds who were out of school at enrollment returned to school

In addition, the five initial sites are making great progress towards longer-term outcomes including:

  • 53% of youth ages 18 and above attained an industry-recognized credential
  • 50% youth ages 17 and below have received a high school diploma or GED so far
  • During quarterly follow-up, 84% of participants were still working or attending school.

In addition, at 12 months into the program only 10% of youth had recidivated, this is well below DOLETA’s 20% performance measure for this group where recidivism is often as high as 55%.

The new sites hope to mirror (or even exceed) the success of the original five sites. To help them do so, IEL has enhanced the Right Turn model in several key ways. First, as the job market continues to get more competitive and specialized, it becomes more important than ever that job-seekers have relevant experience and qualifications to match up with the jobs in their local labor market. Therefore, there will now be a greater emphasis on Right Turn youth acquiring credentials, certificates, or other documented qualifications relevant for the high-demand industries in their community, as well as gaining work experiences that lead to employment.

Second, as many advocates, organizations, and government agencies across the country are examining new strategies for reforming the criminal justice system, Right Turn sites will be required to have formal partnerships with their local juvenile justice system and non-profit legal services. Extensive research shows that diversion (an alternative to being charged, convicted, or incarcerated) leads to better outcomes for youth and their communities, all at a lower cost to the taxpayer. Therefore, sites will work with their local juvenile justice system to serve as an official diversion option for youth who are facing a pending charge. In addition, if a youth already has a conviction on her record, it is important to explore her legal options for expunging or sealing those records in order to give her a chance at a fresh start. Right Turn sites will now partner with local legal services nonprofits to explore expungement options for youth whenever possible.

As the initial sites continue to support over 1000 youth in remaining in school, retaining their job placements, and reaching those long-term outcomes critical to their personal and career success, IEL’s new sites are beginning to enroll youth. The second phase sites are busily recruiting mentors, identifying new legal services partners, establishing or strengthening relationships with every level of the local juvenile justice system, and working with the public workforce system and employers to identify the job training programs that will lead to in-demand credentials in the local market. There’s nothing more exciting for a site (new or old) than that first day a youth walks through the door and begins the youth-led, forward-looking process of making a “Right Turn” onto a path of education, employment, and success!

Related Resources:

Posted in Career Exploration, Career Preparation, Collaboration, Community Partnerships, Guideposts for Success, Individualized Learning Plan, Juvenile Justice, Mentoring, Transition | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Building on Success: Celebrating the Launch of the New Right Turn Program Sites