On June 5, 2020, the National Disability Mentoring Coalition hosted its quarterly meeting with a national webinar entitled Peer Mentoring Models for Transitioning Students with Disabilities. These meetings are designed for Coalition Members and are also made available to guests with an interest in mentoring as a disability inclusion strategy.
Moderated by Jordy Lome, Mentoring Specialist at Partners for Youth with Disabilities, the webinar featured PolicyWorks and Independence Works, both members of the national Peer MentoringWorks Community of Practice (PMW CoP). The PMW CoP was created to connect a network of peer mentoring providers for the purpose of mentoring other providers to develop and expand peer mentoring programs as a service of a State Vocational Rehabilitation Agency.
To begin, Steven Allen, President and CEO of PolicyWorks, reviewed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and the work being done by the Workforce Innovation Center (WINTAC) with Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS). Over the past several years, PolicyWorks developed Peer Mentoring Pilot Projects in several states, including Florida. Steve reviewed the target audiences:
- Educational Program: Students with disabilities, typically age 14-21, who are IDEA or Section 504 eligible; and,
- Youth Program: Youth with disabilities, typically age 14-24.
While the eligibility and coverage of payments in the Continuum of Services model can be complicated, Steven was able to break it down in the webinar to three categories: Pre-ETS for the Educational Program, Group Transition Services, and Individualized Transition Services.
Steven also reviewed the pilot project model, including the roles of the Peer Mentoring Coordinators, Peer Mentors, and Mentees along with the VR or LEA Counselors who refer mentees, the Peer Mentoring Service Plan, and reporting requirements. While there are many connecting elements, all of these individuals are supported by the Peer MentoringWorks ToolSuite for training and certification of the participants. This process helps meet the SVRA’s on-boarding requirements and also empowers the participant, particularly the Peer Mentors, for their successful engagement with the Mentees.
Next, the team from Independence Works, a Community Rehabilitation Provider and Florida Vocational Rehabilitation vendor, provided a comprehensive overview of the youth peer mentoring program. First, Susan Abel, Director of West Palm Beach and Broward County, reviewed their model for in-person and remote services. Since March 2018, Independence Works Peer Mentoring Program served 148 youth with 30 hours of service over 170 days (on average).
Next, Jenni Paine, the Peer Mentor Coordinator for Independence Works, discussed how she guides, develops and recruits for the Youth Peer Mentoring Program. Jenni spoke about how she connects with the VR Counselors and families. When talking with families, commonly parents, she reviews the benefits of peer mentoring from a college student or a young adult now working in the community. During the referral process, Jenni reviews community service organizations, social engagement support groups, and employment-related networks.
After Jenni spoke, a short video – Independence Works Florida VR Services Peer Mentoring Pilot – was played. The video can be accessed here:
After the video, Wyneeta “Wyn” Kumar, a Peer Mentor, was introduced. Wyn provided her story about how she entered the individualized peer mentoring space.
Wyn highlighted her connection with Anthony, a mentee who was struggling in college and unsure of how to work with financial aid, academic advising and student accessibility. Wyn shared that Anthony was able to get re-enrolled, receive accommodations and even get private tutoring – he was able to continue in college.
Wyn shared about their relationship:
We both learned from each other in this experience. [Anthony] learned dedication and patience pays off and I learned that the power of persistence, even if they are sick of hearing from you.
Wyn also reviewed her experiences with two other mentee participants and how she connected and supported their needs through the Youth Peer Mentoring Program.
Jordy Lome then facilitated a group Q&A discussion on with the panelists.
Learn more about Peer MentoringWorks.