Many PYD participants have shared their story on the power of inclusion on their lives. As we continue to highlight National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we amplify one participant’s tenacity and adaptability and ultimate success.
When Pranaav Suresh joined our Career Readiness program in late 2019, he was eager to build his professional skills and start working. Whether it was a mock interview, building his resume, or participating in training with CVS, Pranaav was always friendly, outgoing, and present. This was a student who was ready to work.
Pranaav’s employment goals focused mostly on socialization and workplace communication. By February 2020, he had a strong resume and completed his Work Readiness training and was ready to put his goals into action. We coordinated a paid internship with CVS, which allowed Pranaav, who lives in Saugus, flexibility to find a CVS location in his community. Pranaav was just a few weeks away from starting. Then COVID-19 forced a locked down and all in-person internships were cancelled.
That didn’t stop Pranaav. He focused on school and graduated in June 2021.
Over the summer, Pranaav researched jobs and discovered Bitty & Beau’s Coffee. Bitty & Beau’s coffee shop originated in Wilmington, North Carolina in 2016 as a business whose mission is to “…create a path for people with disabilities to become more valued, accepted and included in every community.” They have grown to 23 shops across 12 states with over 200 employees. In August 2021, Bitty & Beau’s opened their first location in New England in Melrose, MA, just outside Boston.
According to Pranaav, he was officially hired at the Melrose Grand Opening and now works part-time for Bitty & Beaus. He said it makes him happy to earn a paycheck and contribute to his family. He enjoys paying for meals at his favorite restaurant, Kowloon in Saugus.
Pranaav reports that he is happy with his job. He enjoys serving the customers and finds it “lots of fun.” It is no surprise to those who have worked with Pranaav in the Career Readiness program to see him shine in customer service.
The job also provides Pranaav with challenges, which are opportunities for him to continue to learn and grow. To be successful in an internship, Pranaav encourages his peers to take their time. “Don’t push yourself and ask help from co-workers,” he said.
Pranaav’s experience is one of many that highlight the power of workplace inclusion and disability employment. Current statistics from the Department of Labor show that only 36% of people with disabilities are employed, compared to 77% of persons without a documented disability. A vast majority of those who are unemployed have never participated in work, underscoring the necessity for disability employment opportunities, especially for youth.
The Career Readiness program at PYD aims to change those statistics. Our goal is to shift the paradigm by increasing the number of work ready youth with disabilities through Career Readiness training and paid internships. The result is more youth – and ultimately adults – with gainful employment that empowers youth with disabilities to lead self-determined lived filled with dignity, pride, and purpose.