The Path to Independence (P2I) program is a two-year certificate program that gives students with intellectual disabilities the chance to have a college experience. The P2I program has now introduced the opportunity to have their students shadow different job positions on-campus.
The P2I program is under the Nevada Center for Excellence in Disabilities, which serves as Nevada's University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. These programs work to accomplish a shared vision that foresees a nation in which all Americans, including Americans with disabilities, participate fully in their communities. Independence, productivity and community inclusion are key components of this vision.
“We’re just trying to figure out a way for our students to get the most amount of experience during the short time they’re here,” Kellen Abe, employment coordinator at P2I, said. “And the best way that we saw to do that was to have them rotate through three different types of jobs within that semester.”
P2I focuses on providing a high-quality college experience for participants that includes standard classes from the University of Nevada, Reno and the program working with the students to find competitive employment after graduation.
“A lot of this population, without the right support, they sometimes get overlooked as candidates and start at positions where they do have a lot more capability and can be in other positions with the right support,” Abe said.
Once a student begins their second semester, they’ll have a one-on-one meeting with Abe each week for 30 minutes to explore career options.
“Meeting with me for 30 minutes every week is for us to get to know each other,” Abe said. “We choose very general jobs that have different types of activities in them, and that can start a conversation.”
The second semester is also when students are introduced to shadowing different on-campus positions during the semester. Throughout February, some students shadowed at the Learning Resource Center (LRC).
“I feel like [the students] got out of their comfort zone and started talking more,” said Macey Vial, a student-worker at the LRC. “They didn’t feel awkward at the end, they felt more comfortable.”
Another new feature of the P2I program is a third year of the program that introduces students to the passions they’ve learned to love during their time at the program in the community outside the University. Students can apply for the third year of the program, scheduled to begin in fall semester 2020.
“They can do whatever they want here,” Abe said. “But once they're out in the community, how do we translate all of the things they like to do here on-campus and try to help them find things that’ll make their life meaningful?”
P2I continues to work with some of their alumni to find employment once they complete the program. Abe said that he tries to time it so students are ready to be employed immediately after graduation, but the process is based on the individual needs of the student.
“One student, in particular, he came to us and he is very shy, and there's nothing wrong with being shy,” Abe said. “But in terms of supporting him, sometimes he had a hard time advocating or telling people what he needed.”
The student was given a position at the Joe Crowley Student Union and tried to get as many hours as he could. Abe said that the student even received a few commendations during his time there as part of P2I and now works full-time at that position.
“He checks in once in a while, says hi, which is something he would have never done before,” Abe said.
P2I supports the students one-on-one through the program but simultaneously works to provide an authentic college experience to immerse each student in the culture of the University.
“These programs give an opportunity to students who might not necessarily get into college the standard way and is built to give students the tools between high school and the real world that help them become independent,” Abe said.