Posted on 08/14/20 in General
Amid continued uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, more than 50 Cleveland-area youth with disabilities invested in their future this summer by participating in LEAP’s revamped, virtual work experience and career exploration programming.
In five weeks, consumers learned effective self-advocacy strategies, explored potential educational and training opportunities, investigated career paths of interest and developed job-seeking skills.
Using Opportunities for Ohioans’ Summer Youth Foundations Program as a blueprint, LEAP’s Summer Program Coordinator Jordan Haerr teamed up with fellow staff and Summer on the Cuyahoga interns to create an engaging, interactive experience for participants.
“I’m most proud of our team’s ability to adapt to changing circumstances to provide a meaningful experience for the students,” Haerr said. “It was rewarding to see the participants grow and support one another.”
To give as many students as possible the opportunity to participate, LEAP offered multiple sessions. Each week, a Summer on the Cuyahoga intern – supported by a LEAP staff member – led small-group discussions and activities focused on that week’s topic.
In addition to helping participants progress toward achieving their individualized postsecondary goals, the five-week experience integrated many values of the independent living philosophy. The programming emphasized the values of choice and self-direction, independence and empowerment, and dignity and respect.
Haerr noticed improved self-confidence and communications skills among the participants as the weeks went by.
“It was really inspiring to see shy students open up and share what they learned from their informational career interviews,” Haerr said. “Their excitement fueled further conversations with classmates.”
While the first four weeks of the program was conducted exclusively online to protect everyone’s health and safety, some students elected to conclude their experience with on-the-job training. Thank you to our local employer partners at Walgreens and Petco who collaborated with us to help provide that opportunity.
A special shout-out to our six coaches – Anne Chambers, Colette Cosgrove, Lindsay Kluendar, Dave Mahoney, Sophia Musiak and Vanessa Pilatova – who supported each student’s growth throughout the experience!