Volunteer Spotlight: “The Best Way You Can Spend 3-4 Hours”
Do you remember your first interview? Better question: Do you remember if you felt prepared for it? DC3C Spring Break is closing the employment gap through a weeklong job-readiness program focused on professional development and interview skills for high school students.
Research shows that when students with disabilities participate in paid work experience during high school, they are more likely to be employed after graduation. By bringing together companies, volunteers, and schools, the DC Special Education Cooperative (the Co-op) , through its DC3C program, is helping students explore the exciting world of work.
At DC3C, our volunteer support is a huge part of our success and we’re honored that so many of our volunteers report that the experience is just as valuable for them as it is for our students.
Enter Dustin Sanderson.
Dustin is currently the Southeast Program Manager with Team Red, White, and Blue – a nonprofit that enriches the lives of American veterans. He was drawn to volunteer with DC3C’s Spring Break event as an opportunity to work with students to prepare them for the workforce. “I learned about the program and resonated with the intention,” Dustin shared.
The wraparound approach to supporting students with disabilities stood out for Dustin. “Much of my background is in experiential education. I appreciate that DC3C prepares students by having them shop for interview attire. This seems so miniscule. The time that they take to spend a day shopping and finding appropriate attire that they can use in an interview and at work. It wasn’t just, ‘Hey go get an outfit.’ They worked with a budget. It’s very experiential in nature. This is a real-world skill that will help you in the long run.”
That experiential education Dustin is referring to? DC3C Spring Break partners with volunteers like Dustin to conduct mock interviews, offer coaching, and support resume development for students with disabilities. Spring Break teaches students to develop a personal mission and goals and works with them to integrate that into the way they present themselves to educators, employers and community leaders. Students also participate in hands-on experiences, such as shopping for suits or attending formal meals, to prepare them for the workplace.
Volunteers commit up to 4 hours which includes a brief day-of training followed by structured interviews with students, resume writing support, or professional coaching.
Dustin volunteered with the Co-op as an interviewer at the 2017 DC3C Spring Break program and was immediately impressed with the students. “I was blown away. I got to hear the students in their words about what they wanted to do. It was fun to be a part of.”
Here’s our favorite part…
He was so impressed with one student that he attempted to hire him! “There was one student who was an artist. He was doing a great job showcasing his talents. One of the concepts we had [at Team Red, White, and Blue] was a wall that was going to be a mural. When I started talking to this student the wheels started firing. I got super excited. I walked over to Rebecca [The Co-op’s Director of Secondary Transition] and immediately said, “How can I hire him?”
It’s that reaction – how can I hire him or her? – that DC3C Spring Break seeks to catalyze by empowering students and connecting them to opportunity.
According to the data, the three-year-old program has a significant impact on students. DC3C students have improved their job interviewing skills by 124%. Program graduates have gone on to secure jobs with Amazon as well as paid work-based learning experiences with reputable DC organizations such as and the Washington Nationals.
We asked Dustin what he would tell others wondering if DC3C is the right volunteer opportunity for them. He offered encouragement for people considering volunteering, saying “I feel very honored and privileged to be a part of it. I encourage others to give it a try. It’s the best three to four hours I can spend all week. I walked away feeling equally rewarded as the students.”