October is Disability Emloyment Awareness Month. One project I run as the Youth Leadership Specialist at IndependenceFirst is Disability Mentoring Day. Today is Disability Mentoring Day. Here's how it works.: I outreach to teachers, schools, parents and the like and recruit youth to apply for the project. The youth (high school students and young job seekers) send me an application with their basic info, top three career choices, and a teacher recommendation. Then I get to work, trying to find each student a job shadow placement for the day or a part of the day the third Wednesday of every October. I am pretty proud of what I've done with this project. When I first took it over, we were seeing about 20-25 students apply and even that seemed like a big undertaking. This is my fifth year coordinating this event and this year 160 kids applied!!! Planning this event is like planning a wedding. A TON goes into it, and then the day comes, and suddenly its over! Today, 160 youth will be going out to more than 50 metro-Milwaukee area businesses to job shadow someone working in the career of their choice. I am about to go driving around and stopping at some of the various sites to take photos. I'll be stopping at the Wisconsin Humane Society, Matt's Foreign Auto Service and Core/El Centro. Later this afternoon, I'll take pictures at the Urban Ecology Center and The Town of Brookfield Police Department.
Here's why I love this project. Youth with disabilities get a chance to see what it is like in the working world. Sometimes they get excited about how cool their field of interest looks. Sometimes they realize, that they don't want to do that at all. The other reason I love this project is because employers and businesses in our community get a chance to meet an interesting, enthusiastic young person with a disability and hopefully, push through any anxiety or ignorance they might have about hiring or even working with a person with a disability.
I have to extend an extra thanks to some personal friends who helped out this year. It gets a little hairy at the end, trying to find all these placements. Jillian Holy from Core/El Centro, Martin VanIrsel from McCormick and Schmicks and Joyce Gosnell from Legal Action of Wisconsin. Also Joe Hausch, Tom Uyehara and Maria Ramos, all of whom are colleagues/coworkers and have participated in this event for as long as I've been running it.
I know this post isn't particularly amusing, so to keep with the theme of my blog, I'll end with a cartoon.