Ira Shepherd (right), a UD Career and Life Studies Certificate Program student, at campus radio station WVUD FM91.3 with station manager Steve Kramarck.

Disability Mentoring Day

Governor attends UD's Disability Mentoring Day, supports mentoring initiatives

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11:37 a.m., Oct. 26, 2012--During the fourth annual Disability Mentoring Day on Oct. 17, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell gave a keynote address recognizing October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Disability Mentoring Day is part of a national effort to promote career development for young adults with disabilities through hands-on career exploration, on-site job shadowing and ongoing peer mentoring.

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The University of Delaware Center for Disabilities Studies (CDS), within the College of Education and Human Development, joined forces with several UD departments and academic units as well as Newark businesses to offer young adults with disabilities the opportunity to explore their roles in the workforce and cultivate professional interests.

“Individuals with disabilities have significant difficulty finding employment,” said Brian Freedman, unit director, CDS. “The U.S. Department of Labor recently reported that only 21.9 percent of people with disabilities are employed. Disability Mentoring Day is one of several programs delivered by CDS which focuses on increasing the employment of people with disabilities.”

Markell has been a key supporter of employment for people with disabilities in the First State. This year, he chose to focus on employment of people with disabilities as his national initiative as chairperson of the National Governors Association (NGA). 

During his remarks at Marriott’s Courtyard Newark-University of Delaware campus hotel on Oct. 17, Markell said, “I believe more and more employers around the country understand that providing employment opportunities for people with disabilities is good for their business. It’s not just the right thing to do; it’s the right thing to do for their business.” 

A total of eight different UD departments and 14 businesses participated or offered sponsorships, including UD Facilities-Grounds Services, campus radio station WVUD 91.3FM and the UD Office of Development, Gecko Fashions, Best Buy and the Courtyard Newark hotel.

Ira Shepherd, a first year student in the UD Career and Life Studies Certificate (CLSC) Program, spent his day at WVUD, UD’s radio station, with station manager Steve Kramarck. Shepherd has aspirations of becoming a sports broadcaster and sees this opportunity as a steppingstone to other experiences. 

“It was a great day. I got a tour, learned how the radio station functions, produced a demo, and even went on-air live,” Shepherd said. 

“This is exactly what I had in mind when I decided to have the NGA focus on the issue of employment for people with disabilities,” explained Markell. “A large part of what we’re trying to do is get the employers to focus on the abilities and not the disabilities. I think this particular program, where we have mentors and job seekers, and coaches and employers working together, this is what it’s all about.” 

At the awards luncheon, previous participants in Disability Mentoring Day described how their past experiences have led to current successful employment. Phil Kaslow encouraged the current class of participants, emphasizing that perseverance can go a long way when searching for the right job.  “You can do whatever you want if you put your mind to it.” 

Individuals, supervisors, or employers who are interested in participating in future disability mentoring day activities or other employment support programs for individuals with disabilities should contact the Center for Disabilities Studies at 302-831-6974. 

Article by Christina Mason Johnston

Photos by Ambre Alexander

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