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Your Dollars @ Work: Helping Adults on the Path to Successful Careers!

A 2012 Family Services Community Grant to the YMCA of Greater Kansas City funded the Y’s efforts to help impact employment outcomes for youth with autism spectrum disorders by holding Career Academies throughout the Greater Kansas City area in 2013. The below post is by Julie Alsup, Program Innovation and Resource Director at the YMCA of Greater Kansas City.

About the Program!

The YMCA utilized funding from Autism Speaks to deliver 9 Career Academies for youth with disabilities in the urban areas of Kansas City as well as each quadrant of the Greater metropolitan area.  

With funding from Autism Speaks, 85 participants ages 14-41 (53 of them had an autism diagnosis) experienced increased understanding about basic career planning through 9 Career Academies in the Kansas City area.

The goal of the Career Academy is to help individuals discover possible careers and employment that they find interesting, fun or challenging and then provide them with the resources to meet their goals! The Academy is divided into four parts:

Discovering Your Career

  • Learn what employment is and why everyone should work.
  • Identify common employment myths for people with disabilities and learn the facts.
  • Understand the basics of career planning.
  • Set up a Missouri Connections account.

Discovering Who

  • Learn about interests, skills, and talents and how to use those as a starting place for career planning.
  • Identify a champion and a network of supporters.
  • Identify conditions, preferences, contributions and support needs for employment.

Discovering What

  • Identify preferences, conditions, contributions, and support needs.
  • Learn about the basics of networking.
  • Learn about how to write a resume.
  • Practice teamwork scenarios.

Discovering How

  • Develop strategies for connecting with potential employers and networking.
  • Understand employer expectations for professionalism, dependability and attitude.
  • Identify tips for making a good first impression during an interview.
  • Practice problem-solving, workplace ethics, and professionalism.

Success Story!

One student at the Career Academy, Alex, is a senior this year.  He and his brother both have an autism diagnosis.  Alex participated in our sessions held out in Excelsior Springs.  The YMCA Challenger Adaptive Program has been collaborating with this school district for two years now, and they were more than happy to explore our Career Academy offering for their High School life skills class.  He was able to share his hopes and dreams of working in food service one day, as well as continuing his participation in Challenger sporting activities.  He loves to work out, and always lends a hand with equipment set up and take down on game nights.  The career academy and activities reinforced his confidence, and he was able to share his future aspirations with his father (Alex is from a single-parent home).

This past weekend, Alex was nominated Prom King by his classmates, and attended his first school dance with the highest of honors.  Earlier this winter, he received his letter jacket for sports via the YMCA Challenger program, and loves to wear his new jacket.

Alex is just one example of the many success stories that have come from the Urban Career Academy. We hope that this curriculum can be used to replicate this successful program around the country!

The Urban Career Academy Curriculum is now available online! Click here to visit the Curriculum and enter Access Code UCA2013.

Your Dollars @ Work is a blog series highlighting the important work of past recipients of Autism Speaks grants to give you a glimpse into how your donations are changing lives of so many in the autism community! Check out previous entries here.