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

Photograph of Jessica Queener The following blog is a cross-post from disability.blog, the official blog of disability.gov. 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, visitthenytc.org/workearly or youtube.com/thenytc.

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 jqueener@cscn.org.

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