As with all things in 2020, summer youth programming has taken on a new format this year. We are pleased to report that the switch to virtual classes has not diminished the impact of the programming.
Summer Youth Foundations, an Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) service offered by Vocational Guidance Services (VGS) and vocational rehabilitation providers throughout the state, teaches young adults with disabilities vocational skills and appropriate work behaviors. The topics taught include self-advocacy, post-secondary options, and career exploration.
To date, VGS staff has provided virtual Summer Youth Foundations to 70 young adults with varying degrees of disability. When the sessions began, the technology and ways of engaging were new to students and instructors alike, but things went smoothly, with engaged students and eager instructors. Classmates developed friendships through their Zoom classrooms and instructors developed repertoire with their students. Dezmone and George are an example of how virtual programming doesn’t stop positive impacts and relationships from forming.
Dez, a VGS instructor, understands that every student is unique, with varying strengths and challenges. As he got to know his students, he recognized that George, a CMSD rising senior, needed more time taking in and processing information than some of the other students. To make George more comfortable and help him succeed, Dez would reach out before class to go over the information and then again after class, to see if George had any additional questions. George also felt a level of discomfort with engaging with his peers via Zoom, but gained confidence and began asking questions as he learned more about the other students. Dez also made an adjustment to classes to benefit George’s learning style, during class discussions, Dez never asked George a question first or particularly early on in the discussion, he would intentionally ask George after a few other students had spoken, this allowed George to process the topic and take the time to settle into the class.
Dez’s approach of assessing the situation and then providing personalized support is critical for the success of so many students who have struggled in traditional school systems and/or have disabilities. Dez says he sees some of his younger self in George and is eager for George to get the resources and opportunities he needs to succeed. When asked about Dez by his OOD counselor, George said “Dezmone taught me more in four weeks than many of my teachers did in a year.” Dez and George developed a bond and they are both eager to meet each other in person once they can do so safely.