COSD FULL ACCESS: Mentors Improve Employment of College Students with Disabilities

This blog post was written and contributed by Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities (COSD), a member organization in the National Disability Mentoring Coalition.

Transitioning from college to the workforce can be challenging for everyone.  But for college students with disabilities the data is clear – approximately 50 percent of college graduates with disabilities are unemployed and the majority of those who do have jobs are vastly under-employed.  That’s why Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities (COSD) produces FULL ACCESS Student Summits, a bi-annual initiative as an educational and networking event for both students with disabilities and employers to come together to create meaningful career connections. The COSD FULL ACCESS Student Summit model achieves a significant and successful impact for participating students and employers across a variety of sectors.

From November 6-7, 2015, 60 college students with disabilities and 18 national employers participated in the COSD FULL ACCESS Student Summit in Chicago, IL with networking, workshops, and a career fair. The primary goal of the Student Summit is to teach college students and recent alumni with disabilities how to engage with employers, and for employers to gain first-hand experience with people with disabilities to keep this population in the forefront of their minds when developing diversity-inclusive recruitment plans.  In short, FULL ACCESS is a kind of two-way mentoring that improves understanding and moves the needle on recruiting more college graduates with disabilities into the workforce.

Alan Muir, co-founder and Executive Director of COSD, started COSD in 2000 to remove the disconnect between post-secondary offices of disability services and career services at universities across the country.  After the conclusion of the Chicago FULL ACCESS Summit, Alan remarked “we now have fully engaged employers that believe in disability as part of their diversity and inclusion initiatives, and they come to COSD to find, advise and recruit talented college students.  What we didn’t anticipate was the learning the employers would experience in a form of reverse-mentoring.”  Mr. Muir has won several national awards for his work, including the Paul Hearne Leadership Award from the American Association of People with Disabilities, and was recently inducted into the inaugural class of the Susan M. Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame. Susan and Paul were close friends and their legacies live on through leaders like Alan.

In conjunction with the Chicago COSD FULL ACCESS Student Summit, COSD convened its Annual National Conference to examine what is working in the career transition space, including innovative mentoring models.  Barbara Butz and Steve Allen from PolicyWorks, Inc. (and members of the National Disability Mentoring Coalition) presented on Bridging the Gap from College to Careers (C2C), a Kessler Foundation-funded initiative.  The C2C is an instructor-led online course that teaches students with disabilities the principles and practices associated with successful employment seeking and advancing strategies. To date 109 students have enrolled for credit, with eight graduating this past Spring, two returning to graduate school and four graduates earning an average  salary of $69,000.

Clearly there is more work to do to successfully transition more graduates with disabilities into the workforce.  COSD collaborates with universities, employers and innovative transition practitioners to create a real difference, and bring employment to some of the best and brightest college graduates who happen to have disabilities.  Want to get involved?  Contact COSD or Follow on Twitter @cosdcg.    

About the Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities: COSD ‘s mission is to assist a college student or a recent graduate with a disability in gaining the tools and knowledge necessary to secure their career of choice. While this takes diligent work and effort, COSD believes that in partnership with campus Disability Services and Career Services offices, COSD can assist students with disabilities in becoming a competitive career candidate and successful employee. Learn more about COSD at

About the National Disability Mentoring Coalition:  The mission of the National Disability Mentoring Coalition (NDMC) is to increase the awareness, quality and impact of mentoring for individuals with disabilities across the nation. Member organizations share core values and align with the Coalition’s objectives to streamline communication, standardize and systematize data collection, reduce duplication of efforts, increase mentoring opportunities, and improve outcomes for youth and adults with disabilities. Members include: American Association of People with Disabilities, Association of University Centers on Disabilities, Broad Futures, Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities, Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, D.C. Public Schools, Easter Seals, Institute for Educational Leadership, Keep the Music Playing, Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, MENTOR: The National Partnership, Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, National Council on Independent Living, Partners for Youth with Disabilities, PolicyWorks, Inc., The Viscardi Center, and United States Business Leadership Network. Learn more about the NDMC and its Members at:

Expanding disability inclusion & adaptive recreation at Dreamfar

Staff listening to former paralympian Cheri BlauwetDreamfar High School Marathon (DHSM) partners with PYD in its Inclusive Fitness for Youth Initiative.  Funded by The Boston Foundation, PYD’s Inclusive Fitness for Youth Initiative seeks to empower fitness and recreation organizations to engage more youth with disabilities through capacity building activities. Partners in this initiative have included Boston Ballet, Boys and Girls Club of Assabet Valley, Boys and Girls Club of Dorchester, West Surburban YMCA, Boys and Girls Club of South Boston, and McKinley South End Academy.

As DHSM strives to become a more inclusive organization, they have worked with PYD to learn basic disability inclusion strategies and inclusive marketing. The latest in this series of workshops was an Adaptive Running workshop hosted by Spalding Adaptive Sports Program.

Demonstrating adaptive running techniquesThe highlight of the workshop was getting to learn from two former Paralympians, Cheri Blauwet and Joe Walsh. According to Jamie Chaloff, Director of DHSM “What an honor and a privilege it was to have such distinguished and accomplished athletes give up part of their day to help DREAMFAR grow and learn.”

About Dreamfar: Dreamfar High School Marathon (DHSM) turns the road into the classroom. They challenge high school students to reach their full potential through hard work, perseverance and commitment. DHSM focuses on integrity, realistic goal-setting, teamwork, and the importance of a healthy mind and body. They see the marathon course as a way to strengthen our students’ physical, emotional and mental fortitude, and encourage them to see this as one of many trails they will blaze.

Tool for parents to navigate IEPs, SSI, guardianship, & health insurance

Founded in Cambridge in 2013, Exceptional Lives provides free online guides to parents of children with developmental disabilities. These Guides lead parents step-by-step through complex processes, such as how to:

  1. Optimize your health insurance
  2. Create an effective IEP
  3. Access SSI
  4. Navigate guardianship and its alternatives

For parents of youth with disabilities, one of the biggest barriers in accessing resources is simply knowing what is out there and how to go about enrolling for those services. There are many complicated processes and eligibility requirements for things like Individual Education Plans (IEPs), health insurance, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). These guides hope to break down those barriers and make it easier for parents to connect with the services they need.

These individualized how-to guides give you relevant and actionable information tailored to each child’s needs, so parents can help their child thrive. They can take as little as 15 minutes to complete, making complicated topics simple and digestible for everyone.

Continue reading “Tool for parents to navigate IEPs, SSI, guardianship, & health insurance”

NDMC Meeting Minutes: November 2015

National Disability Mentoring Coalition Meeting
November 6, 2015
Meeting Minutes

Amir Abdolrahimi, Intern, American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)
Rayna Aylward, NDMC Co-chair, PolicyWorks Inc. Board Member
Anna Cunningham, Business Mgmt Analyst, Northrup Grumman
Tanisha Clarke, Mgr, UCEDD TA, Association of University Centers on Disability (AUCD)
Samantha Dannick, Intern, American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)
Dana Fink (for P Gill & E Watson), Assistant Project Coordinator, Institute for Educational Leadership
Keri Gray, Youth Transition Fellow, National Council on Independent Living (NCIL)/NYTC
Emily Hanna, American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)
Carolyn Jeppsen, CEO/President, Broad Futures
Michael Murray, COO, American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)
Mylene Padolina, Student Initiatives Program Manager, US Business Leadership Network (USBLN)
Rachel Patterson, Director of Public Policy, Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation
Jessica Queener, Manager, National Youth Transition Initiative, HSC Foundation
Diane Quest, Senior Director, External Affairs, MENTOR: The National Partnership
Derek Shields, NDMC Co-chair, PolicyWorks Inc. Board Member
Regina Snowden, Founder & Executive Director, Partners for Youth with Disabilities (PYD)
Judy Shanley, AVP, Education and Youth Transition, Easter Seals
Marie Strahan, Consultant
Genelle Thomas, National Center Director, Partners for Youth with Disabilities (PYD)
Kevin Webb, Senior Director, Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation (MEAF)

Topics Covered: Details on the launch of the Hall of Fame nomination process in January 2016; discussions on National Mentoring Month; updates from member organizations.

Download complete NDMC meeting minutes here.

Josh and Justin’s Mentoring Story: Gaining skills through friendship & bowling

Josh and Justin at Yawkee Way in Red Sox gear

Meet Josh Brown and his mentee, Justin! Josh and Justin have been with us for three years now as Mentor/Mentee match of our Mentor Match program. It has been three years since Josh moved from Austin, Texas to Boston for work. In order to become more immersed in the Boston community at-large, Josh decided to join a recreational baseball league – and it is through the league that he met our very own Steve Slowinski. Steve told Josh about Partners for Youth with Disabilities and the Mentor Match program. Josh found it interesting, and thought it would be a great way give back to the community and make Boston more of his home.

Josh was paired with then 10-year-old Justin. Justin is now 13 and their relationship has grown immensely in the last three years through activities, such as going to the golf driving range, hitting baseballs, and playing video games. Their favorite hobby to do together is candlepin bowling. Justin’s love for bowling is what inspired him to ask Josh to help him host a fundraiser for PYD.

In Josh and Justin’s time together, they have spent a lot of time getting to know each other. Josh was thrilled when Justin asked him to create and spearhead together the bowling fundraiser because it is an excellent example that Justin’s strong social skills are growing even stronger. Josh is excited to watch Justin take ownership of the event this Saturday.

Justin next to Celtics player Courtney Lee on the basketball court post-game.

Josh has loved every minute of his relationship with Justin. When asked about his favorite moment together, Josh immediately knew it was when PYD got them floor seats to a Celtics game two years ago. That game showed Josh that both him and Justin are involved in the community. In the middle of the game Justin began talking to some of the players on the bench. Josh was nervous that they were going to get kicked out, because it never crossed his mind to talk to star athletes like everyday people. But to Justin, the interactions were person-to-person. Justin told  player Courtney Lee to start taking three-pointers because that was why they were currently losing. Courtney listened to Justin and the Celtics ended up winning the game. At Courtney’s post-game interview, he invited Justin to join him for the interview.

Josh wants everyone to know that mentoring relationships are even more rewarding than one would expect. You grow personally, and become more connected with the community while also being able to change another person’s life in the process. The best part is your mentee will teach you a few things as well.

Please join Josh, Justin, and the PYD family Saturday, November 14 from 4:30pm to 6:30pm at Ryan’s Family Amusements in Malden, MA. Get your tickets here.

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