A project led by Virginia Commonwealth University School of Education Researchers received a $ 1.25 million grant to improve employment opportunities and outcomes for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Richmond and Colonial Heights.
The five-year grant from the Administration for Community Living of the US Department of Health and Human Services will support the Promoting Employment After high school through Community Expertise (PEACE) project, which will aim to build community capacity to sustain opportunities employment for young people with intellectual disabilities. and developmental disorders.
“The main objective of the PEACE project is to improve the paid community outcomes and post-secondary education of youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Seb Prohn, Ph.D., principal investigator of the PEACE project and principal analyst of the PEACE project. research and evaluation within the Partnership for people with disabilities at VCU. “However, it is not just for young people to acquire more skills and experiences, although this is a key characteristic. It is for communities to collectively develop capacities and solutions so that they are better prepared to support and ultimately benefit from capable, reliable and often essential workers with [intellectual and developmental disabilities]. “
The project will be a collaboration of VCU Center for Innovations in Transition; VCU Family engagement center, which is part of the Partnership for People with Disabilities; and the Metropolitan Business League; in partnership with several state and local agencies – including Richmond Public Schools and Colonial Heights Public Schools – as well as community organizations and youth with disabilities and their families.
“We are thrilled to receive this grant and to work closely with community members in Richmond and Colonial Heights to improve employment outcomes for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Parthenia Dinora , Ph.D., Interim Executive Director of The Partnership for People. with Handicap. “I can’t wait to see what will be accomplished [by this project] over the next five years.
Kathleen Moritz Rudasill, Ph.D., professor and senior associate dean for research at the School of Education, said the Disability Partnership is “a leader in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities and is also a great community partner. , as evidenced by this grant. We are delighted with this opportunity for this team to take this work forward. “
The grant comes from the Administration for Community Integration Projects of national importance, which focuses on the most pressing issues affecting people with intellectual disabilities and their families, creating and enhancing opportunities for these people to contribute and participate in all facets of community life.
The PEACE project will bring together people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, family members, teachers, employers and service providers to identify community strengths that can be harnessed to keep these young people employed.
The VCU Center for Transition Innovations will work to prepare school staff and young people. The Metropolitan Business League will support companies to better support employees with disabilities. And the VCU Center for Family Implication will work with the CRA to help prepare parents to support their children in their job search and higher education.
“The PEACE project is not another initiative where external experts teach communities how to solve problems,” said Prohn. “Stakeholders know a lot more about the ins and outs of how their communities function, including significant strengths, pressures and obstacles. The collective wisdom of communities – people with disabilities, service providers, business owners, educators and others – can lead to changes unattainable by a researcher with any set of ideas, and I’m proud that this project recognizes that. and puts it in the foreground and center. “
The team anticipates that approximately 50 students, 50 families, 15 businesses, and up to 25 school staff will participate in Project PEACE’s capacity building efforts. And between 24 and 35 young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are expected to participate in paid community employment experiences as part of the project.
The project builds on research conducted by the Disability Partnership which found that when people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are employed, they are more likely to participate in their communities, to have more control over their lives. life and to see their rights respected and respected.
“The job can also have health, mental health and social benefits,” Prohn said. “Whether you have a disability or not, you will probably be better off when you work. “
The grant follows a recent $ 1.2 million grant from the United States Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs to an interdisciplinary team at the School of Education to prepare early intervention staff , early childhood educators and social workers to improve early childhood and family mental health outcomes. young children with severe disabilities and their families.
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