An empowering opportunity for student success wraps up its first year

Story by Diana Purtz

“I am looking forward to being able to realize my dream,” explained Kyle W., a student in CSU’s newly launched Empowerment Course.

The course, which is part of Continuing Education and offered through the Center for Community Partnerships, just completed its pilot year with great success.

“Empowerment has helped me by giving me the experience I need through completing the class and internship for my future,” said another student, Claire L.

Higher ed for young adults with disabilities

The Empowerment Course offers an affordable higher education opportunity for young adults with intellectual, developmental and other disabilities. Empowerment runs for the entire CSU academic year (32 weeks) and focuses on finding career paths that match each student’s unique skills, knowledge, abilities, and interests. Training is provided to support the variety of skills needed for students to be successful in their future endeavors.

“Students really enjoy having the college experience and being integrated into the CSU campus,” explained Megan Wolff, who co-instructs the Empowerment Course with Holly Darnell. Wolff and Darnell are occupational therapists who help students learn what accommodations and compensatory strategies work for them and how to advocate for their needs both in educational and employment environments. “Some students continue in post-secondary education, and this course has better prepared them for that transition,” Wolff said.

Training on advocacy skills

The Empowerment Course includes training on important advocacy skills to know how and when to effectively disclose disabilities or learning needs. All of the Empowerment students identify long-term employment goals and a path for achieving these goals. “Empowerment has taught me how to self-advocate with employers and the importance of doing an informational interview to ensure a good fit with a possible job or internship,” explained student Leo B.

The Empowerment Course also has a hands-on component that enables students to gain valuable career experience with applicable internships that they helped to develop. Through participation in the course, one student has completed an internship at the KCSU radio station and has been able to identify the best major and minor to pursue at CSU this fall, which will increase his employability in his dream field of audio engineering.

Student mentors

Empowerment also includes a mentorship program in which students in the course are matched with occupational therapy graduate students. It is a mutually beneficial partnership, as Empowerment students receive individualized support while the graduate students gain hands-on experience in developing intervention plans that help students achieve their goals. “It was amazing to listen to students’ journeys and hear how far they have come through this course,” said Holly Minning, an occupational therapy graduate student mentor.

All students leave Empowerment with a transition portfolio that includes numerous resources and strategies for self-advocacy, employment, academics/learning, and independent living. This portfolio serves as a valuable resource to support students in their journey toward successful completion of their individualized goals.

Students between the ages of 18 and 26 who are unemployed or underemployed and seeking assistance in identifying a career path are welcome to apply for the 2017-18 course year to begin this fall. Applications are currently being accepted on a first-come, first-served basis for up to 10 students. For more information on the course and how to apply, please visit the Center for Community Partnerships website.