Have you ever seen a young person transform from shy and reserved to confident and prepared? DC3C volunteers see this change first hand when they sit down with bright and capable high schoolers with disabilities to interview them and review their resumes.
More than half of DC students with disabilities are neither enrolled in post-secondary education nor employed one year after graduation. One of the ways the DC Special Education Cooperative (the Co-op) is changing this statistic is through its DC3C program, a weeklong job-readiness program focused on professional development and interview skills for high school students.
Exposure to work – ideally paid work – makes all the difference. For students who gain work experience in high school, the rate of post-high school graduation employment raises to approximately 80%.
Preparing students for these opportunities is largely possible thanks to the many volunteers who give of their time and talent each year for DC3C Spring Break. Today, we recognize Hema Patel.
Hema is a learning architect with Credible Behavioral Health, Inc. Unlike some volunteers, she knew several of the students before DC3C Spring Break. “Some of the students from my school participated in Spring Break. I could see the impact it had on them.”
DC3C helps students develop interpersonal skills that might be missed in school. “The education space is always about academics. Teaching the soft skills that they will need in the workplace is often overlooked. Seeing attention to these types of employable skills was impressive,” shared volunteer Hema Patel.
One student in particular stood out to Hema – Victor.
“One of my favorite stories is Victor. When I first met him, before Spring Break, he was a very smart, shy student who didn’t really talk to people. Victor attended Spring Break in 2017. At the end of the event, I remember talking to him. He was in a suit, talking to people, shaking hands, giving out his business cards, and looking people in the eyes. The transformation in his ability to talk to people about the value he would bring to a company and sharing his resume was remarkable.’
Following Spring Break, Victor interviewed with Nationals Stadium and got the job!
Victor was not alone in gaining work experience. Hema shared, “There was an employer who was so impressed that he offered a student a job at the end of the event.”
Volunteers get as much out of the event as students. “Spring Break is a learning opportunity for anybody who wants to volunteer. Special Education is a label to people, but people with disabilities have valuable skills and are assets to employers.”
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. We can work with you and whatever time you have to give.
At the end of the event, volunteers know that they made a difference. Hema provided this encouragement, “It is about imparting social skills on students. Practicing adult interaction with them is a big deal. A lot of students have social anxiety. It’s experiences like these that make a lasting impression. Just opening the space up for them to engage and learn, that experience is huge.”