August 17, 2018  

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Institute for Disability Studies Assisting Young Adults with Job Training, Internships

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The transition from youth to adulthood following the completion of high school can be challenging and confusing for any young adult. Further, this transition may be particularly challenging for young adults with disabilities, particularly those with intellectual or developmental disabilities whose life plans are still unclear.

These young adults, like their peers without disabilities, often share the same desires of living independently, continuing their education and obtaining employment. For employment, the best outcome desired is integrated, competitive employment in the community at minimum wage or higher.

The University of Southern Mississippi Institute for Disability Studies (IDS) has placed an emphasis on increasing the opportunities and services for Mississippi’s youth with disabilities during the transition to adulthood. IDS promotes abilities for all transition activities and just received funding from the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services to start the Transition of Teens to Adult Life (ToTAL) Program. 

The ToTAL Program was designed to meet pre-employment transition service needs through the creation of a center located within USM’s Hattiesburg campus. The ToTAL Center will serve as a counseling, work-based training and internship site for youth and young adults with disabilities ages 14-21 in high or college programs. The service areas will include school districts or colleges and universities from 15 of the state’s south and south central counties.

“Poet-writer and disability advocate Robert M. Hensel has said ‘Know me for my abilities, not my disability,’” said Dr. Jerry R. Alliston, interim associate director at IDS. “We are excited about this new collaboration with the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services. The ToTAL Program will assist youth and young adults with disabilities on their path to a first job and then a career through real-world training combined with a paid work experience.”

The ToTAL Center will include a work-site training center with work and life skill training materials, an assessment/evaluation site and a resource center with various local, state and national resources. All services will be concentrated on three main areas:  job exploration counseling, workforce readiness training, and work based experiences internships. 

Activities have begun for the first job training and internship activities to be held in Hattiesburg and at the University’s Gulf Park campus in Long Beach starting in June. These programs will include a week-long enrichment academy, classroom training and a six-week paid community-based internship.

For more information about the ToTAL Program, please contact the program coordinator, Jin Joo M. Crosby, at 601.266.6037 or jin.mcclendon@usm.edu.    

About the Institute for Disability Studies
IDS has been located at Southern Miss for more than 40 years and has satellite offices on the Southern Miss Gulf Park campus in Long Beach and in Jackson. IDS provides pre-service training, community services and technical assistance programs for individuals with disabilities of all ages and their families. IDS’ areas of emphasis include early childhood inclusion and education; housing; transition to adulthood; and wellness. For more information about IDS, visit www.usm.edu/disability-studies.