Tag Archives: RAMP

Celebrating NDEAM – National Disability Employment Awareness Month

David Wright is a recent graduate of Stephen F. Austin High School in Sugar Land where he was in our Easter Seals Houston High School High Tech / RAMP (Ready to Achieve Mentoring) program since his freshman year. David has been interested in becoming a herpetologist for a long time and knows A LOT about it. Freshman year it was hard for our staff to keep him on track because he always wanted to talk about lizards, snakes, and reptiles. We literally couldn’t get him to talk about anything else! Through the years David got better about this, was more open to participating in what the class was doing and it was obvious he was starting to pick up on the importance of our mentoring and lessons about social cues and soft skills and more. Jacquelyn Privatera Miller went with him to his interview for the internship at the Houston Museum of Natural Science at Sugar Land and he was SO professional, acted like a well prepared young adult and dressed himself so well for the interview. Everyone was really impressed. David is thriving in this environment and has opened up more and can have great conversations with people including his new co-workers. He even hugs Jacquie now when he sees her, which he would never ever have done before. So really he has just grown and matured so much in the last few years and is doing a really impressive job at his internship!  Help us congratulate David  as he is enjoying his 20 hours/week internship AND is also enrolled at Wharton Community College! Huge thanks to the museum and the museum staff for making it a life changing experience for David!

High School/High Tech is a community-based partnership of parents, educators, rehabilitation professionals and business representatives working together to encourage students with disabilities to explore the fields of science, engineering and technology. Only 56% of students with disabilities graduate from high school. High School/High Tech was developed to address this situation. Most individuals with disabilities have not had the encouragement, role models, access and stimulation to pursue challenging technical careers or courses of study. Through High School/High Tech, students with disabilities are presented a mix of learning experiences that promote career exploration and broaden educational horizons. High School/High Tech also offers a mentoring program called RAMP – Ready to Achieve Mentor Program. Learn more about High School/High Tech.

Jacquelyn Miller, Easter Seals Greater Houston, High School High Tech / RAMP

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Interviewing for the Future

Being a good interviewer is a skill we should all have. I got my first job slicing meats and scooping salads in our grocery store’s deli, but I imagine that’s only because my dad worked there. I was hardly interview ready and showed up wearing jeans. Luckily practice makes perfect and throughout the years I’ve gained the skills necessary to feel confident when I sit across from the person who may or may not make it possible for me to pay my bills. But, teenagers are often terrified of the idea of an interview just as I had once been.HSHT MID 2017-19

Interviewing skills, resume writing, soft skills, and professionalism are all heavily covered topics in Easter Seals Greater Houston’s High School/High Tech and Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program (RAMP) classes. We want our students to ace any interview they walk in to and that takes a lot of practice. Leading up to our annual Mock Interview Day, we talk about what they should wear and how they should answer popular interview questions as well as why they should smile, make eye contact, and have good firm handshakes. We do everything we can to prepare our youth and they usually seem ready to go but inevitably, when they line up in the hallway to begin the first of their three short mock interviews, the panic sets in. I can understand why – our volunteer interviewers are very professionally dressed, sitting tall and stoic in their seats and it immediately makes all of the students doubt their skills and forget everything we taught them. However, over the course of the day, something really great happens. You can see these young people feel confident and proud of themselves. They leave their first interview with a grade sheet that usually tells the same tale – they did well, but have a few things they need to work on. At the second interview, they’ve worked on these shortcomings and did a pretty good job! By their third, they’re old pros comparing near perfect scores with each other in the hallway. Watching a young person believe they can do something well is pretty amazing.

HSHT MID 2017-45This year, Carmen Phillips, the newest member of Easter Seals Greater Houston’s High School/High Tech team, hosted her own Mock Interview Day and included a fun new activity that got students talking with each other and moving around. By making each student their own business cards to share and use for networking with other students, Carmen was able to make every student social. Even the most shy or reserved students made an effort to network with others and talk about themselves in between mock interviews. This was a fun new mock interview day inclusion that we will be using every year to get our youth excited about sharing what they know with other people.

HSHT MID 2017-05Yvonne Kelly and I enjoyed watching students at our Mock Interview Day in League City cut each other in line to be able to do their second or third interviews before one another because they had gotten such great scores and couldn’t wait to do it again! We had a funny and boisterous group this year and they made the day so fun.

Watching all of our youth participate, feel accomplished, and actually be excited about interviewing is such a reward for us as each Mock Interview Day ends. We can’t wait to see what next year brings as we prepare our students for their transition out of high school and into the world of college and work!

Jacquie Privitera Miller, RAMP and Transition Coordinator, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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High School High Tech Royalty and Celebrating Disability Employment Awareness Month!

Hear ye, hear ye! Easter Seals Greater Houston‘s High School High Tech is homecomingking4pleased to announce that we now have Royalty among us!  Montgomery ISD just crowned our very own HSHT student, Jahlil Howard, to be the 2016 Montgomery High School Homecoming King! Jahlil, a high school senior, is a second year participant in our High School High Tech and Ready to Achieve Mentoring program and has been a shining example of leadership to his peers.

High School/High Tech is a community-based partnership of parents, educators, rehabilitation professionals and business representatives working together to encourage students with disabilities to explore the fields of science, engineering and technology. Only 56% of students with disabilities graduate from high school. High School/High Tech was developed to address this situation. Most individuals with disabilities have not had the encouragement, role models, access and stimulation to pursue challenging technical careers or courses of study. Through High School/High Tech, students with disabilities are presented a mix of learning experiences that promote career exploration and broaden educational horizons.

homecomingking2This outgoing Senior has been super active in our HSHT program and has participated in several career field trips including Montgomery County Mock Interview Day, tours of Olive Garden and Woodforest National Bank and even defied gravity at a HSHT indoor skydiving event at IFly Woodlands!  In addition to HSHT, Jahlil continues to break barriers as an avid runner and member of the MHS Varsity Cross Country Team and has been recognized with several awards for his Cross Country achievements, including District Champ, all the while maintaining his steady summer job. homecomingking1

Jahlil became involved with HSHT with the support and encouragement of his MISD Transition Specialist Lesa Bolling who proudly remarked, “Jahlil is an awesome young man with an outstanding personality! He makes everyone around him feel at ease. Jahlil’s faith is grounded and he speaks of it often.” Mrs. Bolling couldn’t have said it better!  Congratulations to our amazing young man, and Royal Highness, Jahlil Howard!

Carmen Phillips, Easter Seals Greater Houston
Montgomery County HSHT Program Coordinator

 

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Keeping It In Perspective

March 2016 Transition blog by Jacquie

I stumbled across a short poem online the other day.

Cause I ain’t got a pencil
By Joshua T. Dickerson

I woke myself up
Because we ain’t got an alarm clock
Dug in the dirty clothes basket,
Cause ain’t nobody washed my uniform
Brushed my hair and teeth in the dark,
Cause the lights ain’t on
Even got my baby sister ready
Cause my mama wasn’t home.
Got us both to school on time,
To eat us a good breakfast.
Then when I got to class the teacher fussed
Cause I ain’t got a pencil.

Despite my making a conscious effort everyday to remember that not everyone’s circumstances are the same, I still need reminding sometimes. I still need to remember some of my students will come to class without something they need simply because they just don’t have it. It isn’t always forgetfulness. It isn’t always laziness. It isn’t always defiance of the rules. Some of the time, maybe even a lot of the time, they just don’t have it. It isn’t because they don’t want to listen and it isn’t because they don’t care.

During my first year with Easter Seals Greater Houston‘s High School/High Tech Program, a student asked what the house I grew up in looked like. I told everyone it was small but my parents took great care of it and made sure it always looked nice. They still do. They have lived in that house for 35 years. The student then said,

So, how big was the downstairs of your house?

I didn’t know and I hadn’t ever really thought about it.

Well, the downstairs is maybe a few feet bigger than this classroom.

My student, who is one of the funniest people I have ever known, laughed and said,

Miss. Do you know how big my whole house is? My ENTIRE house? It’s the size of this corner!

He walked over and held his arms out in a big bear hug stance and stood in the corner showing everyone that his house was as small as that space.

When we eat dinner, all our elbows touch. Me, my mama, my step dad, and my sister. Our elbows touch like this…

and he forced his elbows together in front of himself.  I will miss this kid next year. He is graduating. I am so proud of him but sad for myself.

Everyone laughed watching his theatrics including me, probably more than anyone else. But, it made me think. I’ve always thought of my house as small, but to someone who didn’t have that much, that house was pretty impressive. I’ve always been proud of it because my parents spent so many hours keeping it up and making sure it was the nicest house on our street; and it was and it still is.

I didn’t really realize that I was so fortunate to have things that other people with less might really admire. I had a picture of my parents’ house on my phone. I took it before I moved to Houston three years ago so that I could look at it whenever I got homesick. I showed my students and they all replied with “whoa!” and “that’s a nice house, miss” and “look at your street! It’s like a movie street!” They were right and I hadn’t realized until they said it.

I gain little bits of perspective slowly over time. My students teach it to me; these kids with challenges I have never had to face. What I always thought was average was actually really beautiful to some of them. What I always thought was an unspoken rule – bringing a pen or pencil to all my classes – was easy for me because I had all the things I needed for school. Money was set aside for school supplies and new school clothes every year without thought and without question. Not everyone has that. Some of my students don’t have that. I hope to change it somehow.

I bring spare pens to class now.

-Jacquie Miller, Transition, Easter Seals Greater Houston

To read more posts by Jacquie Miller, visit J-Vibe

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Our Newest Avril “Rock Stars”!

This past weekend, Easter Seals Grater Houston held its third installment of our teen camp, CamDSCF4708p MOST (Miles of Smiles for Teens) with the help of Randalls Food Market, The Avril Lavigne Foundation and United Way of Greater Houston. It has been such an incredible experience to be a part of the birth of this new opportunity for teenagers. Some of the campers who have attended one of the weekend retreats had been removed from the camp scene for a few years since their graduation from Camp Smiles (our week-long overnight camp) at age 14, so they have loved getting back to camp, seeing old friends and enjoying some teen time.

Camp MOST along with our program, Social Motion Skills, is all about encouraging the teens along in their transition from childhood to adulthood and supporting them through this challenging time of life. High school is tough enough for any teenager, and when you bring a disability into the mix, it adds a whole other dimension to the puzzle. At Camp MOST, the teens find a support group among each other and are able to talk about what it’s like to be a teenager with a disability, how they navigate their high school, and share advice about how to teach and interact with their peers about disabilities in a positive way. In the future, DSCF4551we hope to add an element to camp that touches on transition from high school to post secondary life like our High School High Tech Program – meaning college, employment, vocational school, etc. We want to encourage the teens to become self advocates and learn how to get the most out of their life! We hope to accomplish this by stressing the development of relationships, natural supports, personal expectations, community involvement, social skills and self-determination – all key components of Social Motion Skills.

It’s amazing to watch these campers who once were young nervous little kids, arrive at camp and check themselves in, turn in all of their medication and explain what each of them is for, and explain their own personal care needs to the volunteers. They are really learning to be self advocates and understand how to take responsibility for themselves. I also love watching the campers develop true friendships among one another. They all exchange contact information with each other at camp and many stay in touch and become great friends! They really are each other’s best support because no one knows what it’s like to be in their shoes except for them.  I love that Camp MDSCF4664OST helps the campers find and connect with people who understand them and can relate to their life experiences. Not to mention, it’s a great place for these teens to escape for a weekend and just let loose and have fun!

I hope that Camp MOST continues to grow and encourage teens through their high school years. It is definitely my dream to see some of these campers come back in the future as mentors to the new campers! Between the community support, MOST, Social Motion Skills and High School High Tech, we hope the community sees the importance of giving teens with disabilities a chance – they can excel at school, go on to college and be gainfully employed. We can’t do it without support both monetarily and volunteer based. Please consider making a gift, serving as a volunteer or asking your company to be a host site for our high school program.

Here’s a little taste of the success we see – C has been attending our children’s camp since he was 7 years old.  Every year at our children’s camp, he refused to do the high ropes course.  Now 14, C saw being at teen camp as a rite of passage and as an opportunity to challenge himself and step outside of his comfort zone.  So, C got up to the top of the high ropes course (nearly 3 stories high!), and then flew back down via the zip line.  C screamed and beamed all the way down, and at the end of it exclaimed, “Check it out, I did it!”

By Betsy Keane, Camp Coordinator, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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The Chance of a Lifetime, High School Students with Disabilities

Ask yourself – Why not give these teens a chance? Doesn’t everyone deserve it? All it takes is one hand up and not a hand out.  Can’t we all remember the person in our lives who gave us the one chance that altered our lives? Not to mention…did you know most of our world leaders and CEO’s have some type of learning disability?  Imagine the difference in our lives if Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, who also has dyslexia, hadn’t been given a chance? See 15 CEO’s with Learning Disabilities.

Everywhere you look there are stories about how finding a job in today’s market is becoming more and more difficult.  Imagine how especially difficult it is for a student trying to find his or her first job, especially when that student lacks the confidence in him or herself because of a disability.  And their families and teachers don’t want them to even try or are scared for them to get hurt? Wonder why the dropout rate for teens in high school is over 60%…

This is exactly why it is so important for these students to have the additional practice, and help in preparing for work related experiences and to be exposed to the opportunities that exist.  I think that we would be hard pressed to find anyone who could not use some practice in interviewing, but helping our high school students with disabilities is essential to aiding their success in entering the workforce. 

As we approach our fifth annual Interviewing Skills Workshop, I am excited to watch how much our students will gain from this one day.  Of course we practice sample interview questions throughout the year, but watching the students run through a mock interview with volunteer professionals that they don’t know, there is a noticeable improvement in the students’ confidence and comfort as they go from their first to their third or fourth round.  It seems unlikely, but the students actually like practicing their interviewing skills, and even practice with one another as they wait their turn for their next mock interview.  Obviously, all these teens need is encouragement and a little support. 

The main focus of High School / High Tech is to open a door to a future…whether that is graduating from high school and entering the workforce, or going to a trade school OR attending college when no one thought it was possible. In just a few shorts steps this program can introduce these teens to what is expected at a workplace, what is expected as an employee, the many, many different opportunities that exist and the possibilities you can create for yourself. And, the main focus of the Interviewing Skills Workshop is to teach our students more about interviewing skills. Each year as we finish up the day I am reminded of a few important lessons myself.  First, no matter how many times you go to an interview or interview someone else, it is normal to still be nervous.  Second, it really is generally the best idea to practice something before you do it and not just wing it to see how it goes.  And finally, sometimes things that you think will be torturous, boring and nerve-wracking will turn out to be enjoyable, informative and even fun experiences.  Everyone including the volunteers, teachers, and Easter Seals staff takes something away. Hopefully you will too.

Erin Linskey Johnson, HSHT Program Director, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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