Free program helps high school students with disabilities transition from school into workforce

Phillip Palmer Image
Friday, September 1, 2023
Program helps students with disabilities transition into workforce
Career Launchpad is a free 90-day program that helps high school students with disabilities successfully transition from school into the workforce.

The U.S. Census Bureau says one in five Americans have a disability and students with a disability have a lower graduation rate than those without. And after school, only about 23% of Angelenos with disabilities have jobs.

Career Launchpad is a new, free, 90-day program authorized by the California Department of Rehabilitation to help high school juniors and seniors with disabilities find their passion and successfully transition from school into the workforce.

"When working with the kids who may have disabilities, if you will, the whole purpose of this is to try and essentially teach them how to feel empowered, to take back their power if you will. Whatever disability or ailment they may believe they have can actually be their power to help others," said Jordan Walley, a Career Launchpad counselor.

Over 30,000 high school juniors and seniors are eligible for this program, which tries to get kids out of the classroom and into an environment where they will share their hopes and dreams. Although similar to a high school guidance counselor, the Career Launchpad provides more one-on-one guidance, giving students social and technical skills that match their unique abilities.

"We're all very different people regardless of where we're coming from. So really understanding the person, their needs, what their situation is, is really critical. So that's why those one-on-one coaching sessions are so important and so necessary, because we really want to understand where they're at now and where they want to be in the future," explains Ahlam Suradi, the Regional Manager for Career Launchpad.

Students can sign up for the 90-day program at any point of the school year. They are given workplace readiness training, job exploration counseling and even paid work experience. And that can change how they are seen as employees and how they see themselves.

"Because of the stigma out there of individuals with disabilities, they believe that they're not able or that they're not ready. But just having that extra push and working one-on-one with them to motivate them and create those resources and show them the resources that are available to them, so that they are able to be successful," Suradi said.

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