You are with us! Mentorship program for people with disabilities expands inclusiveness



Aliyah Jackson, a sophomore psychology student, immediately loved her co-op’s mission at a Boston nonprofit called You are with us!– which widens access and inclusion in the daily activities of young adults with disabilities. The work also opened his eyes to the difficulty young adults with disabilities face after reaching the age of 22 and to get old of most of their federal and state support services.

The Disability Mentorship Program pairs young adults with mentors who work to enhance their independence, ensuring they can access everything they need to find a job, shop for groceries, join a club or enjoy any other aspect of their life.

Jackson says the co-op also taught him key lessons in the workplace, such as the differences between working in a nonprofit and a private company and the rewards and challenges of working with marginalized populations. Even her interview experience has helped her broaden her understanding of the type of work environment she would like to find herself in after graduation and the kinds of people she hopes to work with. She spoke about the co-op in a high-profile interview with News @ North East which has been slightly edited for clarity.

Why did you choose to work in this cooperative?

The purpose of the organization is just really necessary. It’s so important to include people with disabilities and integrate them into social groups because I feel like there is a lot of exclusion, especially in the college demographics.

Were there other reasons?

I also had an interest in working for a nonprofit organization because I wanted to see what type of work they were doing and how they run their organizations. I think this might be the type of work environment I’m interested in working for in the future.

How is it different from working for a non-profit organization?

I think what’s really different for me is what’s really going on. Sometimes in a for-profit job it feels like everything is structured and aligned. Everything fits perfectly with the job posting. For a non-profit organization, I feel like there is so much going on behind the scenes and there are so many moving parts that you can watch happen. Here I have the opportunity to see much of the organization’s strategic planning and have a lot of hands-on experience working with people with disabilities and their service coordinators.

How did the hiring process go?

What definitely sealed the deal for me personally was the interview. It is probably the most comfortable interview I have ever had. I was nervous, obviously, but the environment of all the supervisors and the team that worked there was fabulous. I basically interviewed every person I sit with at a staff meeting every week, and they made me feel comfortable. I felt like they cared about me, my goals, and what I wanted to do.

What have you learned from the cooperative so far?

This co-op has really helped me learn to be flexible in my communication style and has helped me to be perseverant when reaching out to people as some of the mentees I mentor have different communication styles. Sometimes I’m afraid to talk to them instead of being with them. Even though they are listening, they just aren’t part of the conversation like I’m used to. I have learned that they will participate later if they wish or even much later when they feel they have something to contribute.

Can you tell us a bit about your day-to-day work?

A lot of my job is just trying to get in touch with parents so that I can set up dates with their kids. Sometimes all it takes is texting, calling and emailing to find a time that is really convenient for us to sit down and put their child back in the program. Parents are busy and sometimes things fall through the cracks, but they really appreciate that you go out of your way to communicate with them and try to find something that works for them and their disabled child.

Is there anything you have difficulty doing in this job?

Something that I always navigate is the free form of the co-op. No one is sitting down and telling me exactly what to do every second of the day, so I made my own schedule and decided on the things I need to do on my own that I think will help. to the organization. I really think I was expecting more structure to come, but it’s been really loose and pretty loose so far. Now that we are resuming the school year, I think it will pick up and my schedule will feel more solid.

Have you been surprised by anything about the job?

I really like how much this co-op has changed in perspective, because I think a lot of times people just don’t think about the experience of a person with a disability.

This co-op does a great job of showing you what people with disabilities typically experience when they leave the school program. It also shows you their own individual and daily struggles, their strengths and how they deal with their own disability.

What advice would you give to a student considering this co-op?

You have to come in with a positive attitude. Take things as they go and ask for help when needed. I am focusing on doing as much as I can in the capacity that I can, I think that is really a helpful positive mindset for you to keep going. Another thing I would say is, if possible, to keep in touch with the students who have had the co-op before you. There are two previous co-ops still working here, and they have been a wealth of resources in terms of what to do and how to do it.

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