Organization Profile: The Center for Independent Living of North Central Florida (CIL/NCF) is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Gainesville, Florida, serving people with disabilities in 16 counties in north central Florida at four different locations. CIL/NCF’s mission is to empower people with disabilities to exert their individual rights to live as independently as possible, make personal life choices, and achieve full community inclusion. The organization is committed to the principles of the Independent Living Philosophy, is staffed and governed by a majority of people with disabilities, and has provided cross-disability services at no cost to consumers for 30 years. The center delivers the four core services of the Independent Living Program: advocacy, information and referral, peer support, and independent living skills education.
CIL/NCF operates a local High School/High Tech (HS/HT) program, which is funded by the state HS/HT coordinating agency, The Able Trust. HS/HT is a national model that engages students in exploration of and preparation for careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. HS/HT program goals include reducing the dropout rate; increasing enrollment in postsecondary education; and improving educational, vocational, and employment outcomes. In Florida, HS/HT programs serve high school students ages 14 – 22.
Program Structure/Design: CIL/NCF administers six HS/HT programs across five Florida counties in multiple high schools in the Gainesville area (Alachua County) and rural Alachua County, as well as Marion, Bradford, Levy, and Putnam Counties. CIL/NCF HS/HT serves students with disabilities ages 14 – 22, most of whom pursue standard diplomas, rather than special diplomas, maintain grade-point averages of 2.0 or higher, and possess an interest in exploring postsecondary education and employment.
CIL/NCF primarily delivers HS/HT programming via a club model, in which students meet after school or outside of class. Using independent living plans, students set and work towards individual goals related to education, postsecondary and transition supports, and employment. HS/HT staff work closely with a teacher sponsor at each high school. Teacher sponsors assist with student referral, enrollment, and coordination of school documentation associated with out-of-school trips and experiences.CIL/NCF supplements individualized services with group activities during and after school. HS/HT staff work closely with each student in order to develop transition plans that link youth to college, training, or employment upon graduation from high school. Through this model, students receiveone-on-one support and accomplish personal goals while developing advocacy and leadership skills.
The HS/HT program director is headquartered at the CIL/NCF’s central office in Gainesville and provides support, supervision, and logistical coordination for all local HS/HT program activities. Full- or part-time project coordinators facilitate HS/HT services at each local site. Program staff meet regularly to report on services and activities; discuss challenges and brainstorm solutions; build partnerships; and coordinate educational site visits, kickoffs, graduation celebrations, and other program services.
The CIL/NCF provides ongoing services to HS/HT graduates consistent with the Center for Independent Living Core Services (advocacy, information and referral, peer support, and independent living skills education) and additional CIL/NCF programs. CIL/NCF staff invite students who have completed HS/HT programming to continue participating as program alumni, a role that can include serving as a peer mentor, providing leadership on student advisory councils, and assisting with fundraisers. CIL/NCF HS/HT students develop relationships with staff and other consumers within the organization, and staff work to connect students to other CIL/NCF youth and adult services.
States of Operation: FL
School-Based Preparatory Experiences: All students participate in individual and group career exploration through completing career interest inventories and independent living skills assessments. HS/HT programming also exposes students to postsecondary education options through academic and corporate guest speakers and visits to local colleges and universities. For example, visits to postsecondary programs in Jacksonville, Orlando, Tallahassee, Tampa, and Gainesville throughout his three years in the HS/HT program helped one student decide he wanted to enroll in Santa Fe Community College initially after high school to pursue an associate’s degree in medicine and then transfer to the University of Florida to complete a four-year degree.
The Able Trust, the state coordinating agency for Florida HS/HT programs, forms state-level partnerships and solicits funds to benefit local sites. State-level education and postsecondary partners include the Florida Department of Education and the State University System of Florida. In addition to benefiting from these state-level partnerships, CIL/NCF, like all other local HS/HT programs in Florida, must develop and maintain local partnerships. CIL/NCF’s local postsecondary partners include the University of Florida and Santa Fe College.
Career Preparation and Work-Based Learning Experiences: Throughout the year, CIL/NCF offers HS/HT students activities that prepare them for the world of work, including summer internships, job shadowing, employer and industry tours and speakers, and employability workshops on topics such as writing resumes, completing job applications, preparing for job interviews, workplace communication, and time management. Students learn about diverse career options through job shadowing activities and industry tours made possible through the program’s partnerships with high-tech facilities, educational science centers, and the region’s state and national parks. Students participate in paid summer internships supported through partnerships with the local workforce investment boards (WIBs), depending on availability funds. For students not eligible for paid summer internships, CIL/NCF offers volunteer internship positions to explore career fields of interest.
CIL/NCF HS/HT benefits from state-level employer and workforce partnerships developed by The Able Trust. These partnerships include the Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Agency for Workforce Innovation, Workforce Florida, CVS Caremark, Darden Restaurants, and other large state-level employers. Current CIL/NCF local employer and workforce partners include Shands Healthcare, New Horizons Computer Learning Center, and the City of Gainesville.
Youth Development and Leadership: Students are engaged as active leaders of the program, directing program activities, developing fundraisers, and creating community service projects. Local HS/HT fundraising projects involve student leaders in planning and publicity efforts while increasing community awareness of CIL/NCF’s HS/HT program and its mission. Program staff report that youth participation in fundraisers creates a feeling of program ownership, and increases youth’s dedication to the program and positive interaction with peers.
Representatives from CIL/NCF train students on disability awareness, self-advocacy skills, and self-determination. Students also participate in The Able Trust’s Florida Youth Leadership Forum and Florida’s Disability Mentoring Day. Additionally, several times during the year, a field trip or industry tour provides students a chance to witness leadership skills in action, as careers in politics or organizational leadership are highlighted.
Connecting Activities: CIL/NCF links students to educational and transition supports, including vocational rehabilitation services, WIB programs and opportunities, transportation resources, financial aid opportunities, and connections to postsecondary and employment options. NCF/CIL incorporates college visits into programming as part of year-long HS/HT activities. The local HS/HT project coordinator attends each student’s individualized education program (IEP) meetings and coordinates additional support for assistive technology and tutoring as needed.
Family Involvement and Supports: HS/HT staff engage parents in students’ transition from high school by providing families with information and referrals concerning transition planning, support networks, disability awareness, self-advocacy, legal rights, and community resources. CIL/NCF engages parents and families through meetings, letters, phone calls, and general program involvement. Parents, guardians, and other family members are engaged in the student’s transition plan by helping them to set independent living goals and participating in the IEP process.
CIL/NCF invites family members to participate in HS/HT events, such as orientation sessions, kickoffs, end-of-year celebrations, and site visits and trips. Family members assist with transportation to workshops, job shadowing, internships, and other programming throughout the HS/HT year. Parents frequently call the CIL/NCF for HS/HT schedule updates and to provide updates on family situations. This regular communication with families helps staff in supporting HS/HT students.
EVIDENCE OF SUCCESS (INFORMATION AND ANALYSIS)
Data: Each year, approximately 1500 students with disabilities participate in local Florida HS/HT programs statewide. As a result of program services, 86% of Florida HS/HT graduates annually enroll in postsecondary education, training, or employment. These students reported that HS/HT motivated them in their decisions to pursue higher education or training, helped them set career goals, and increased their self-esteem. In the 2009 – 2010 school year, the Florida HS/HT program experienced a high school dropout rate of less than 1%.
Florida High School/High Tech Statewide 2009-2010 Student Outcomes
- Enrolled in Community College – 29%
- Enrolled in Four-Year College – 10%
- Enrolled in Technical Schools – 12%
- Entered the Military – 2%
- Entered full- or part-time employment – 12%
- Continued as Fifth-Year Seniors – 9%
- Postsecondary Work Experience: Project Search – 17%
- Other – 4%
- Undecided – 5%
Organization Name: The Center for Independent Living of North Central Florida (CIL/NCF)
Organization Director: William Kennedy, Executive Director
Street Address: 222 SW 36th Terrace
Phone Number: (352) 378-7474
Contact Person: Amy Tharpe
Contact Title: HS/HT Program Director/Director of Resource Development
Contact E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org