The Importance of Connection

AR PROMISE logo

The Promoting the Readiness of Minors in Supplemental Security Income or PROMISE, program is an interagency collaboration of the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Social Security Administration. The program strives to improve the education and career outcomes of low-income children with disabilities receiving Supplemental Security Income and their families. Under the PROMISE program, state agencies have partnered to develop and implement six model demonstration projects (MDPs) serving 11 states.


Arkansas PROMISE program’s three primary components are intensive case management provided by a case manager, known as a “connector,” hired from the community; at least two paid summer work experiences of up to 200 hours each; and additional education provided during required monthly meetings and through a week-long, statewide summer camp.

The first component gets perhaps the least attention and is regarded as the least sustainable. Connectors support the household’s needs and engagement with PROMISE services and existing resources.

While the realities of agency budgets make small caseloads difficult, data from the PROMISE projects where small caseloads were a component may encourage us to rethink priorities and invest in a strategy that has proven its value.

We invited Arkansas youth and parents to share stories of the impact PROMISE has had on their lives and communities. Their testimonies emphasized the importance of the relationships the connector has been able to build and the lasting impact that they have had on the families they engaged.

Phillips County, located in the Delta region of Arkansas, is a prime example. The median household income in Phillips County is $26,829 and the poverty rate is 33.5%. African Americans make up 62 percent of the population and 91 percent of those individuals live in poverty.

In September, Denise Olloway, the Phillips County connector, began the final monthly meeting for her caseload participants by sharing some statistics as part of a ceremony to recognize the participants’ accomplishments. She started with a caseload of 23 youth and their families three and half years ago. Of those, four moved out of state and three did not engage with the services. Of the 16 youth remaining, 10 have graduated from high school and two are seniors scheduled to graduate in 2019. Five youth are employed full-time, and two are attending college. One of those attending college is also working part-time.

Denise had asked three youth and three parents to say something about how PROMISE had impacted them, but almost every youth and parent at the ceremony chose to speak.

The youth used the words, “PROMISE changed my life.” They spoke about how they had learned to earn money, use money wisely and save. They talked about how they had learned about communication and work skills. One young man talked about how he had been living on the streets and stealing to survive before PROMISE, and now he was earning and bringing in money.

Parents talked about how PROMISE had “opened doors for our kids.”

“It’s not just about the money. It’s about all the things the kids have learned. When they said we had to come to these meetings, I thought, ‘I’m not going to meetings,’ but I came to the first one, and I’ve been to all of them since then,” said one father who attends required monthly meetings.

As each youth and parent spoke, it was clear that “Ms. Denise” was the stimulus that brought people into the program, got them engaged, encouraged them, goaded them to keep them motivated, and kept them involved in working toward their education and employment goals.

One mother talked about how Denise had “come into our home, not with anger or disrespect, but with the same [positive] attitude every time.”

It was clear that the youth and families felt loved and supported by Denise, and that they loved and supported her in return. Every single person present said to her, “We love you” or “I love you.”

I attended the meeting in Phillips County to give a presentation about the Arkansas no-cost extension, which services would continue, and to reassure participants that they were not being left alone.  However, that presentation proved to be superfluous.

Denise had done her job well. She had connected the families on her caseload with local and statewide resources that could provide assistance and showed them how to access those services. She had helped the youth and parents identify goals and the steps needed to accomplish those goals. She believed they could achieve their goals, and they believed in themselves.

The participants in Phillips County did not need PROMISE any more. They did not need a connector. They will always want Denise in their lives as an encourager, mentor and friend, but they did not need her as a service provider. She provided them with the knowledge, skills, and connections to continue achieving their goals and setting new ones.


Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.

NDEAM 2018 | Kwik Trip

NOTE: October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Kwik Trip Storefront

In addition to assisting individuals with disabilities prepare for, secure, retain, advance in or regain employment through the provision of vocational rehabilitation (VR) services, state VR agencies provide training and other services to employers who have hired or are interested in hiring individuals with disabilities under the VR program. A few state VR agencies in the Midwest have demonstrated how uniquely positioned they are to meet the needs of both individuals with disabilities and employers through their partnership with Kwik Trip, a family-owned business of convenience stores.

Several years ago, Kwik Trip realized its ability to deliver exemplary customer services was sometimes hampered by the range of functions its Guest Services Coworkers had to manage while also being available to serve customers, especially at busy times of the day. To address this issue, Kwik Trip developed a new position, the Retail Helper, but early efforts to implement the position within the company were unsuccessful—until the Wisconsin Division of Vocational Rehabilitation proposed a solution. The state VR agency would serve as a single point of contact to implement a uniform approach to designing the Retail Helper position by recruiting individuals with disabilities and training them to be successful.

The partnership in Wisconsin provided quick results and Kwik Trip soon replicated the model with Vocational Rehabilitation Services in Iowa, where the company operates as Kwik Star, and Minnesota Vocational Rehabilitation Services.

Today, Retail Helpers in stores across all three states handle a range of responsibilities allowing Guest Services Coworkers more time to focus on customer service.

Currently, roughly half the company’s 634 stores employ Retail Helpers. Not only do state VR agencies help recruit and train individuals with disabilities for the positions, but they provide ongoing supports, as appropriate, including supported employment services.

After five years, the partnership has been a boon not just for recruitment, but also retention. In 2017, the rate of turnover among Retail Helpers was just 9 percent compared to 45 percent for all part-time employees. Many Retail Helpers have been promoted to Guest Services Coworkers—creating new opportunities for them and those hired to take their place.

Kwik Trip Employees

For these reasons and more, Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation recognized Kwik Trip as its 2018 National Employment Team’s Business of the Year.

For more information about the VR programs that collaborate with Kwik Trip, please visit our partners at the Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services; Minnesota Vocational Rehabilitation Services; and Wisconsin Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.


In recognition of NDEAM and in partnership with the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR), OSERS highlights one of the many successful business partnerships that state VR agencies have developed across the country.

Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.

Kathleen West Evans, Director of Business Relations, Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR)
Posted by
Director of Business Relations Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR)
Chris Pope
Posted by
Rehabilitation Services Administration Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services U.S. Department of Education

The National Clearinghouse of Rehabilitation Training Materials (NCRTM): Finding Promising and Effective Resources in the Clearinghouse Library

For National Disability Employment Awareness Month, check out the many resources available in the National Clearinghouse of Rehabilitation Training Materials (NCRTM), funded by the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA).

We offer pointers for finding up-to-date resources in the NCRTM library and showcase a few products from the RSA-funded technical assistance (TA) centers.


National Clearinghouse of Rehabilitation Training Materials (NCRTM) Homepage

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) supports a vision that people with disabilities, including those with the most significant disabilities, can work in competitive and integrated employment.

The NCRTM is one of the first places you should go to find promising and effective practices that have been shared by RSA-funded projects and TA centers so that vocational rehabilitation (VR) personnel, employers, families and individuals with disabilities can improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities.

What Do These Icons Stand For

We constantly add new resources to the NCRTM library, which you can search for by keyword or topic. You can also quickly search the library by clicking on icons that link to RSA information and guidance, products developed with RSA funding, RSA-funded TA centers, peer reviewed products and sign language interpreter resources.

Whether you are a person with a disability, a VR professional or service provider, an educator, interpreter, or in business, the NCRTM contains useful, interesting and accessible resources to learn more about a topic or share ideas and resources with others.

The following resources from three RSA-funded TA centers demonstrate the type of information you can check out as you explore ways to celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

ExploreVR logo

Job-Driven Vocational Rehabilitation Technical Assistance Center (JDVRTAC)

JD-VRTAC has identified, adapted, embedded and sustained job-driven practices in order to lead to improved employment outcomes for people with disabilities. Their lasting contributions include toolkits such as:

  • Business Engagement Toolkit
    • Useful information and tools to optimize interactions between employers, VR, and other organizations
  • Employer Supports Toolkit
    • Useful information and tools for services provided by VR in response to businesses’ needs
  • Labor Market Information Toolkit
    • Useful information and tools to use labor market information to assist job-seekers and understand employer hiring trends
  • Customized Training Toolkit
    • Useful information and tools for programs and partnerships to meet employer or industry needs for skilled workers
    • Contains the Paid Work Experiences Toolkit that explains internships, pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeships and includes case studies and highlights models across the U.S.

Though funding for this JDVRTAC ended September 2018, the Workforce Innovation Technical Assistance Center (WINTAC), in partnership with the Institute for Community Inclusion and the University of Washington, will continue to provide technical assistance to VR agencies in the topic areas covered by the JDVRTAC through September 2020.

Vocational Rehabilitation Technical Assistance Center for Targeted Communities (VRTAC-TC) (Project E3TC) logoVocational Rehabilitation Technical Assistance Center for Targeted Communities (VRTAC-TC) (Project E3TC)

Project E3TC provides technical assistance so state VR agencies and their community-based partners can address barriers to VR participation and competitive integrated employment of historically underrepresented and economically-disadvantaged groups of individuals with disabilities.

  • Project E3TC Poverty Resources
    • Collects resources on targeted populations representing high-leverage groups who are underserved or achieved substandard performance with needs in economically-disadvantaged communities across the country
    • Highlights poverty research and resources that are updated regularly.
  • The Forerunners (30-minute film)
    • Tells the stories of people with disabilities working successfully as information technology professionals in Chicago
    • Helps reduce stigma around hiring people with disabilities through use of a 30-minute, award-winning MIND Alliance film funded by Hunter College – City University of New York and developed jointly with Southern University of Baton Rouge
    • Has helped change employer attitudes against people with disabilities in the workplace

Rehabilitation Training and Technical Assistance Center for Program Evaluation and Quality Assurance (PEQATAC) logoRehabilitation Training and Technical Assistance Center for Program Evaluation and Quality Assurance (PEQATAC)

PEQATAC helps state VR agencies improve performance management by building their capacity to carry out high-quality program evaluations and quality assurance practices that promote continuous program improvement.

  • Vocational Rehabilitation Program Evaluation and Quality Assurance Program
    • Certification program intended to increase state VR agencies’ evaluators and quality assurance specialists numbers and qualifications
    • PEQA Evaluation Studies Certificate Program’s fifth cohort started the online certificate program Oct. 1, 2018
    • PEQA Certificate Program has 34 individuals from 29 states actively participating in the coursework and capstone projects to date
  • 11th Annual Summit Conference on Performance Management Excellence
    • VR professionals from 50 states attended September 2018 summit in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
    • Attendees collaborated and shared resources for quality employment outcomes from state-federal vocational rehabilitation services to people with disabilities.
    • Attendees learned evaluation results and research outcomes from practitioners and researchers and gained insight on VR agencies’ strategies for internal controls, program evaluation, skills gains, and other workplace integration processes.
The first PEQA graduate, Margaret Alewine from South Carolina VR, presented her Capstone project, which designed to enhance the Comprehensive Statewide Needs Assessment (CSNA) related to services for youth and students, at the Summit Conference. She received her certificate at the completion of the conference.

The first PEQA graduate, Margaret Alewine from South Carolina VR, presented her Capstone project, which designed to enhance the Comprehensive Statewide Needs Assessment (CSNA) related to services for youth and students, at the Summit Conference. She received her certificate at the completion of the conference.


Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.

NDEAM 2018 | Ida’s Success Story—Knocking Down Barriers for Blind People Throughout New Jersey and Beyond

Ida and her service dog

Ida and her service dog

NOTE: October is Blind Awareness Month and National Disability Employment Awareness Month


Ida is a senior at Drew University in Madison, N.J. where she majors in computer science with a minor in humanities. In addition to a recent paid summer internship and an offer of employment from JP Morgan Chase upon graduation next spring, Ida has had a range of exceptional experiences as she pursues her career goals.

In the summer of 2016, Ida studied abroad at Hannam University in South Korea as a Student Program Developer in the Robotics Program. In 2017, Ida spent the summer as a Research Assistant at Texas A&M University working on natural language processing and information extraction.

Ida is legally blind.

The Governor of New Jersey recently appointed her to serve on the State Rehabilitation Council for the Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CBVI).


The Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CBVI) has been a constant presence in my life.

I clearly remember looking up from my plastic dinosaurs and seeing a friendly CBVI caseworker chatting with my kindergarten teacher. From then on, I was pulled out of class about once a week for games and exercises that taught me how to read braille.

As my passions, worldview, and eyesight changed, CBVI remained a steady current in the sometimes tumultuous waters of my adolescence. Like many visually impaired people, I ran into the pitfalls of denial, of trying to ‘pass’ as sighted. However, when I was finally ready to accept myself and embrace my disability, CBVI’s vocational rehabilitation (VR) program offered training, career counseling and referral services to get me up to speed.

I joined EDGE 2.0, a New Jersey pre-employment transition services program, and gained invaluable mentorship. I later joined EDGE 1.0, a similar program for high school students, as a mentor. I strive to make sure high school students have a head start and helping hand at one of the most pivotal points in their lives.

True to form, my greatest opportunity came wrapped in just a few kilobytes when CBVI’s Business Relations Unit emailed me a tremendous opportunity to apply for the We See Ability program at JP Morgan Chase through a Disability Mentoring Day event as part of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). I would have never spotted the niche event on my own and might have simply glazed over it in a list of hundreds of other intimidating corporate functions. However, my CBVI counselor encouraged me to apply and all it took was her gentle nudge to urge me into the next chapter of my life.

JP Morgan accepted my application, and CBVI helped me arrange transportation to a midtown Manhattan high rise. There, I went through four rigorous rounds of interviews, met hundreds of talented college students, and eventually received an internship offer. I was over the moon and my CBVI support network was equally—if not more—ecstatic at my achievement.

Throughout the internship, I received orientation and mobility training, counseling, and general support to ensure my success. I knew that CBVI was always just a call away and that they were invested in my development as a young blind professional.

Now that I have accepted an offer to return to JP Morgan as a full time Software Engineer, I realize that I owe my success to the passionate people at CBVI.

As a marginalized group, blind people like me need someone in their corner to encourage them to reach their true potential.

I believe that—especially in historically homogeneous fields like science, technology, math and engineering (STEM)—diverse perspectives breed innovation. Thus, we must encourage young people from all walks of life to pursue their passions unflinchingly.

CBVI has been instrumental to my success, but their work is not done. We need to continue knocking down hurtles, stereotypes, and barriers for blind people throughout New Jersey and beyond.


In 2016, CBVI established its Business Relations Unit with the primary responsibility of addressing misconceptions regarding the employment of people who are blind or visually impaired through education, training, and other opportunities. CBVI continues to develop partnerships with businesses, such as JP Morgan Chase, in order to promote a work environment inclusive of people with disabilities and assist in facilitating the successful employment of individuals with disabilities, like Ida.

For more information about the VR program serving individuals who are blind or have visual impairments in New Jersey, please visit our partners at the Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

OSERS shares Ida’s success story in recognition of NDEAM and in partnership with the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation.


Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.

Kathleen West Evans, Director of Business Relations, Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR)
Posted by
Director of Business Relations Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR)
Chris Pope
Posted by
Rehabilitation Services Administration Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services U.S. Department of Education

High Achievement Requires High Expectations: My Family’s Story

Candice Crissinger and children

Candice Crissinger and children

Note: October is Learning Disabilities/Dyslexia/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Awareness Month


“High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation.”

Charles Kettering, American inventor, engineer and businessman.


As parents, we all want to see our children reach their full potential. Our visions of their successes and accomplishments may vary, but we all yearn to guide our children to greatness. How do we set them up to fulfill their potential? What foundations are we building for them? What roadmaps can we provide to help them navigate on their journey?

I am the proud mother of three terrific children (Biased? Yes!). While each of them is unique and inspiring in their own abilities and qualities, my sons have some very distinct similarities.

In the early school years, both began showing similar behaviors: high impulsivity, defiance, acting out, disruption, the inability to follow direction and under-developed social skills.

Both were bright and strong willed and insisted on doing things their own way in their own time.

Both were identified by educators as “challenging and difficult” and by peers as a “bad kid.”

They were both evaluated at five years old, 10 years apart. That’s where the similarities ended.

Let’s start with my older son’s journey.

In 2007, at age five, he was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), pervasive development disorder otherwise non specified (PDD-NOS) and anxiety. His individualized education program (IEP) team, despite all good intent, viewed my son through a deficiency lens. We let the troublesome behavior take the driver’s seat. His aptitude for learning did not seem to align with his behaviors. The behaviors escalated. The suspensions began. His progress regressed, and his growth stalled. We changed schools often. Even though we began as advocates, we soon became adversaries in IEP meetings.

On the other hand, my youngest son has had a very different experience. At age five, he was diagnosed with anxiety and showed a high likelihood of having ADHD. He was also identified as gifted. We worked closely with his school to find a teacher who was a good fit and we collaborated with the occupational therapist, the talented and gifted team, and the area education team, just to name a few.

We first took a close look at youngest son’s evaluation and began the work of identifying supports and developing a plan for acceleration. His problem behaviors were seen in the context of his aptitude and understood as a part of his development as a twice-exceptional student. His IEP centers around his strengths. And yet, we have only just begun to build the foundation of his future achievements. There is still far to go.

If you ask me, the major difference between my two children is in the way that we view them. After all, children with learning and attention issues have a unique set of challenges, and my children are not alone.

Children with learning and attention issues make up 1 in 5 students in our nation’s public schools.

Kids with learning and attention issues account for two-thirds of the children with IEPs who are suspended or expelled. They are 31 percent more likely to be bullied than kids without disabilities. They are three times as likely to drop out of high school as kids without disabilities, and half of all kids with learning disabilities are involved in the juvenile justice system by young adulthood.

These numbers could describe my oldest son, and that is alarming for me.

What drives these numbers? And what can be done?

We must set high standards and expectations for our kids. We must encourage and support our kids to meet the same expectations as their peers, and make sure they are engaged and feel a sense of ownership of their learning. We must encourage our students to view a wrong answer as a learning opportunity, rather than a shortcoming.

We expect insight and reflection to instill a lifelong journey of learning. Our expectations should likewise remain lofty.

When we have low expectations of our students, we allow for minimal effort. Student engagement, self-advocacy and achievement will most definitely stall when the bar is set too low. Self-esteem and gaining a sense of confidence in one’s abilities are lifelong benefits with roots in meeting high expectations.

We can make high expectations real for so many more kids if we focus on their strengths. Using strengths as a framework for educational support and structure will allow for children to use their natural abilities and talents to reach their highest potential.

Across the country, school districts are taking a new approach with Strengths Based IEPs. The move to this type of IEP will certainly require greater professional development for educators in each district. Parents can go to school board meetings and demonstrate their value, but there are great resources for anyone who wants to begin this process within your school or community.

Using a strengths-based approach made an incredible, positive difference for my younger son. Setting high expectations and focusing on strengths allows parents and educators to view our students through a mindset of competence and high achievement. The tools are available and my family has seen the impact firsthand. So let us begin the work to build the foundations of an exceptional educational experience for every child!


Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.

Candice Crissinger
Posted by
Understood Parent Fellow with the National Center for Learning Disabilities. Medical Assistant in Pediatric Specialties, University of Iowa.

NDEAM 2018 | “Always Aim High!”

Note: October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Christopher Pauley does the Marshmallow Challenge.

Christopher Pauley does the Marshmallow Challenge / CBS

Christopher graduated with a degree in computer science from California Polytechnic State University and set his sights on becoming a Software Engineer. Over the course of two years, Christopher applied for nearly 600 positions without much success.

As a result of his disability, and like other individuals who have autism spectrum disorders, Christopher had some limitations with social and communication skills that made interviewing for jobs a challenge. His strengths, however, included an acute attention to detail and a strong ability to recognize patterns. He was also a video game guru.

Christopher Pauley plays Rock Band video game.

Christopher Pauley plays Rock Band video game / CBS

In 2015, Christopher began to receive vocational rehabilitation (VR) services from the California Department of Rehabilitation. His VR Counselor provided counseling and guidance and helped Christopher learn more about his career skills through a vocational assessment. A Business Specialist worked with Christopher to build his resume and hone his interviewing skills.

In August 2016, Microsoft accepted Christopher into its Autism Hiring Program. According to the company’s website, “the academy provides applicants with disabilities an opportunity to showcase their unique talents and meet hiring managers and teams while learning about the company.”

Christopher completed Microsoft’s multiple-day hiring process—a hands-on academy that focuses on workability, team projects, and skills assessment; and one month later, Microsoft hired Christopher as a Software Engineer! He completed the company’s onboarding process and developed a relationship with his mentor, a Microsoft colleague.

During his first few months of work, Christopher received supports from PROVAIL, a non-profit multi-service agency based in Seattle as he settled into his new position.

Christopher Pauley working at a computer at Microsoft

Christopher Pauley working at a computer at Microsoft / CBS

Today, Christopher lives independently in his own apartment and drives himself to work each day. His advice to other individuals with disabilities as they pursue their career goals: “Don’t give up and make sure to always aim high. Don’t aim in the middle, you know, shoot for the stars every time cause you never know what might happen.”

In February 2018, Christopher appeared on Sunday Morning, a CBS television news program. The program featured his story and that of a young woman who also has autism and her career with a multinational enterprise software firm.

To read the story or watch the clip, visit Sunday Morning.

For more information about the VR program in California, visit our partners at the California Department of Rehabilitation.


OSERS shares Christopher’s success story in recognition of NDEAM and in partnership with the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation.

Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.

Kathleen West Evans, Director of Business Relations, Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR)
Posted by
Kathy West-Evans Director of Business Relations Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR)
Chris Pope
Posted by
Christopher Pope Rehabilitation Services Administration Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services U.S. Department of Education

NDEAM 2018 | “America’s Workforce: Empowering All”

Note: October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

NDEAM 2018 Poster: Man in a wheelchair conversing with co-workers over laptop computers.

National Disability Employment Month 2018 | “America’s Workforce: Empowering All”

National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), observed each October, celebrates the contributions of workers with disabilities and promotes the value of a workforce inclusive of their skills and talents. Reflecting a commitment to a robust and competitive American labor force, this year’s NDEAM theme is “America’s Workforce: Empowering All.”

To recognize NDEAM, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) will publish a series of blogs, in partnership with the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation, throughout the month. The series will celebrate the career successes of individuals with disabilities who received vocational rehabilitation (VR) services and highlight some of the partnerships state VR agencies have established with businesses across the country.

For more information about NDEAM, visit our partners at the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy.


Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.

Chris Pope
Posted by
Christopher Pope Rehabilitation Services Administration Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services U.S. Department of Education

A Vocational Rehabilitation Success Story: Joseph Cali

Note: October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Joseph

Joseph Cali

The New Jersey Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (DVRS), which receives Federal funding from the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services’ Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), is pleased to share Joseph’s success story in honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM).


Following an automobile accident in 2006 resulting in paralysis, Joseph spent several months in physical therapy and rehabilitation and now uses a motorized wheelchair. Joseph went on to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling in 2014—both from Rutgers University. Joseph also acquired specialized certificates in physical rehabilitation, supervision, and management.

When Joseph connected with the Vocational Rehabilitation program at DVRS, he was working part-time as an Adjunct Professor at Brookdale Community College. Joseph sought assistance from DVRS with modifying his van to independently travel to work and obtaining full-time employment. With the support of DVRS, Joseph took part in a pre-driver and behind-the-wheel driving evaluation to assess his driving needs. DVRS also supported the funding of modifications to Joseph’s van along with the necessary driving instruction.

On the employment front, DVRS certified Joseph as eligible for the Schedule A hiring authority with the federal government. After attending a federal job fair, Joseph interviewed with the Social Security Administration, who hired Joseph as a Claims Adjuster in Neptune, N.J. Joseph now works full-time and reports being satisfied with his career path and the services he received from DVRS. A special congratulations to Joseph who recently shared that he is engaged and will be getting married soon!

For more information about DVRS, please visit New Jersey’s Career Connections.


Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.

Chris Pope
Posted by
WIOA Implementation Team Facilitator Rehabilitation Services Administration U.S. Department of Education

Helping Youth Meet Their PROMISE

PROMISE: Promoting the Readiness of Minors in Supplemental Security Income

What is PROMISE?

Promoting the Readiness of Minors in Supplemental Security Income (PROMISE) is a five-year research project that advances employment and postsecondary education outcomes for 14–16 year old youth who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI). PROMISE began October 1, 2013 and will continue until September 30, 2018. The program is an interagency collaboration of the U.S. Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Social Security Administration. Under this competitive grant program, state agencies have partnered to develop and implement model demonstration projects (MDPs) that provide coordinated services and supports designed to improve the education and career outcomes of children with disabilities receiving SSI, including services and supports to their families.

2017 represents the fourth year of the projects (the first year was primarily dedicated to recruitment and enrollment). Thanks to the ongoing efforts to support families and youth, we look forward to hearing about bright future outcomes for the thousands of youth and families being served by PROMISE.

Further information is available at the PROMISE TA Center:

PROMISE TA Center logo

 

PROMISE Success Stories

Model Demonstration Project Success Stories

The PROMISE MDPs were created to facilitate a positive impact on long-term employment and educational outcomes by reducing reliance on SSI, providing better outcomes for adults, and improved service delivery by states for youth and families receiving SSI. The six MDPs are comprised of 11 states:

Under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), projects are coordinating with vocational rehabilitation agencies so that youth are receiving pre-employment transition services, to include paid employment. By April 30, 2016, the MDPs recruited a total of 13,444 youth and their families with half of them receiving intervention services targeted around improving outcomes in employment and postsecondary education.

Personal PROMISE Success Stories

Cody—a Youth with Promise

Wisconsin PROMISE

Cody is excelling as a student at Burlington High School and employee at McDonalds. He plays video games, rides bike, and is learning to drive and weld. His goal is to be a welder after college. Cody was born with a brain tumor and has just one hand, but that’s not stopping him.

He’s a youth with Promise, on a journey to achieve his personal, educational, and career goals.

Watch Cody’s story on YouTube.

Xavi’s Story: Youth with Promise

Wisconsin PROMISE

She’s like most #teenagers… she hangs with her cats, dances with her friends, and loves Criminal Minds. She’s also going to have a lung removed. She’s a youth with Wisconsin Promise, on a journey to achieve her personal, educational, and career goals. Xavi shares her dreams, challenges, and the steps she’s taking with Wisconsin Promise to plan for her future.

Watch Xavi’s story on YouTube.

Dorian Shavis—A Firm Foundation

Arkansas PROMISE

As someone who expressed an interest in architecture, one of the Arkansas PROMISE youth participants expressed his desire to work at an architectural firm. Working with the local workforce board, Arkansas PROMISE staff set up an interview with a local architectural firm and secured an internship that resulted in the PROMISE youth and the firm staff learning from one another.

Watch Dorian’s story on YouTube.

More PROMISE Success Stories

You can find many more PROMISE success stories at:


Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.

A Vocational Rehabilitation Success Story

Note: October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

George "Burt" Petley (left) with co-worker

George “Burt” Petley (left) with co-worker

In recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (GVRA), a State VR agency which receives funding from the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services’ Rehabilitation Services Administration, is pleased to share Burt’s success story.


Vocational Rehabilitation Success Story: George “Burt” Petley

Burt began his path to employment in a sheltered workshop in 2007, where he did packaging and sorting tasks. Burt’s fellow participants and supervisors said he was dependable and with the support of his sister, Christie, Burt had reliable transportation. While Burt sometimes had difficulty with decision-making, repetitive tasks were an area where he excelled.

In March of 2017, Burt and Christie attended a group meeting at the sheltered workshop with GVRA staff, who presented on Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) services. Sherry Harris, from GVRA’s Augusta office, and Janice Cassidy, from the Athens office, explained supported employment and job coaching can be conduits toward competitive integrated employment and greater personal independence. Sherry and Janice explained that, in an inclusive workplace, individuals with disabilities would have the opportunity to earn the same wages as their coworkers and would not necessarily have to sacrifice services they may receive through a Medicaid waiver. Burt also learned about GVRA’s Work Incentive Navigators, who help individuals determine how going to work impacts disability benefits.

George "Burt" Petley

George “Burt” Petley

After hearing about the big picture and the spectrum of VR services available, Burt left the sheltered workshop program where he had spent the past ten years. He applied for VR services in June of 2017, first enrolling in a program where he learned socialization and independent living skills and took classes like American Sign Language, pottery, cooking, woodworking, healthy living, social skills and employability. That experience not only proved to be a valuable training opportunity for Burt, but it also led to a job offer when he was hired as a Woodworking Associate. Burt now works 13.5 hours/week earning minimum wage refurbishing furniture and looks forward to working more than 20 hours/week by the end of the year.

According to Burt’s family, he is content as a woodworker. Janice Cassidy shared that “Working with Burt has been a collaborative effort, but in reality, he is truly the star of this story. It began with his simple desire to do something other than continue to work at a sheltered workshop where he had worked for 10 years. Yes, he was certainly given information, told of resources and received supportive services from those helping him. Ultimately though, the person who took the necessary steps to move forward toward achieving his work goal was Burt. He exemplifies GVRA’s definition of true success. He made independent choices for his life, gathered necessary information, sought out potential resources and acted on choices made to realize the goal he was working toward. We wish Burt continued success in his work.”

For more information about the VR program in Georgia, please visit GVRA’s website.


Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.

Chris Pope
Posted by
WIOA Implementation Team Facilitator Rehabilitation Services Administration U.S. Department of Education