Becoming: Young Adults Envision Active Futures
Checking out a recent career and resource fair at Minneapolis Public Schools’ Center for Adult Learning, Taylor Dowd steps away briefly to share her long-term aspirations.
“I’ve always dreamed about traveling the world – and being a famous chef,” said Dowd, who took the first step toward the chef dream a few months ago when she began working in a University of Minnesota dining hall. She’s among a group of nearly three dozen young adults with MPS’ Transition Plus program who work in University food service facilities. Transition Plus provides post-secondary education and training in career and independent living skills to promote a successful transition from high school to adult life, as established by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Conor Davis, who also works in a University dining hall through the program, rattles off a long list of future career steps he’s thinking about. Dowd, Davis, and other attendees are thinking about more than just work as they enter adulthood, however. They want to travel, live, and work on their own terms.
“We had representatives from housing and healthcare service providers, and recreation and leisure providers, in addition to job-training programs and employers,” said Ben Rodriguez, work coordinator at MPS’ Transition Plus and one of the organizers of the MPS career and resource event. The University and the Metropolitan Airports Commission were among several employers at the March event.
The Institute is partnering with MPS, state employment, human services, and education departments, other local schools and transition programs, and service providers to improve the experiences of young people with disabilities as they move from high school to adult life. ICI’s Renáta Tichá and Brian Abery are leading the Institute’s contribution to the five-year effort, helping to evaluate a new, tiered transition framework developed at the state level and being piloted in four area school districts. Funded by the Administration on Community Living, it is a designated Project of National Significance to increase community-based employment, participation in higher education, and independence among Minnesota’s youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
The evaluation consists of conducting focus groups with teachers, support staff, and family members, interviews with youth with disabilities, and a longitudinal survey designed to gather information on transition experiences and ways to improve them.
Project leaders aim to build on work being done at programs like Transition Plus, so that transition services and skill development are more deeply embedded in schools and communities serving students with and without disabilities.
“Ultimately, the vision is to bring more individualized opportunities so students can discover for themselves the things they would like to pursue as they move into their adult lives in the community,” Tichá said.