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Delaware Health and Social Services

DHSS Press Release

Date: August 25, 2015

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Cell 302-357-7498


NEW CASTLE (Aug. 25, 2015) - In a sign of the increasing interest in employment opportunities for young people with disabilities, Delaware's Disability Mentoring Day for the first time this year will expand to host sites in each of the three counties for a day of job networking and discovering careers. Disability Mentoring Day, which is held each October during National Disability Employment Awareness Month, will be on Oct. 21 this year.

For the previous six years, Disability Mentoring Day has been hosted by the University of Delaware Center for Disabilities Studies, with the Delaware Department of Labor's Division of Vocational Rehabilitation helping to identify students.

Last year's event was expanded to include students from Glasgow High School and young people with vision loss, with the Delaware Department of Education's Exceptional Children Resources assisting. Highlights of the day can be seen in this UD Center for Disabilities Studies video.

This year, host sites will expand to also include Dover Downs Hotel in Kent County and Woodbridge High School in Sussex County, with more than 50 students from across the state expected to receive valuable career-building experiences.

The expansion was the idea of Julia Hensley and Alyssa Cowin, co-chairs of the Disability Mentoring Day Committee, a statewide group of individuals representing education, business, nonprofits and government who coordinate the event.

"We know that the likelihood of a young person earning a full-time employment greatly increases with job experiences like this," said Governor Jack Markell, who made advancing employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities his nationwide initiative while serving as Chair of the National Governors Association for 2012-2013. "Opportunities like Disability Mentoring Day help to meet the expectation for young people with disabilities and their families that they will join the world of work when they are finished with their education."

In this video from last year's event, the Governor called on employers to offer more job opportunities to people with disabilities.

Hensley, who recently completed an internship with U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, and Cowin, who works for the Department of Health and Social Services, both have participated in similar employment experiences.

"I'm very excited that Disability Mentoring Day in Delaware is getting bigger and better every year!" Julia Hensley said. "It's important to young people who are looking for a job. It's important to businesses who want to hire good workers."

"The message that I want to share is that inclusion is extremely important for students with and without disabilities," Alyssa Cowin said. "I think one of the greatest feelings of accomplishment that someone with a disability can have is getting a job and being independent. Disability Mentoring Day will help more students accomplish that."

Students from Christiana and Glasgow high schools, along with students from UD"s Career & Life Studies Certificate (CLSC) program will participate in job-shadowing experiences in the Newark area. Students from Dover and Smyrna high schools will go to job sites in the Dover area. Students from Woodbridge High School will spend time with businesses in the Greenwood and Bridgeville areas. Students who are served by the Division for the Visually Impaired will be invited to participate in each of the three locations.

Janell Booker, a second-year student in UD's CLSC program, participated in Disability Mentoring Day last year and was placed at the Carpenter Sports Building. "I hadn't realized before how many types of jobs there are at a place like that, like cleaning the equipment and working at the reception desk," she said. "I could definitely see myself working at a gym in the future, because I don't mind those jobs and I really enjoy working out."

Kristen Black, a senior at UD majoring in cognitive science, with a concentration in speech pathology, was Janell's mentor last year. "My mentoring experience was great and allowed us to bond," she said. "We realized we had shared interests, like exercising. As a result, our relationship has really grown as peers and friends at UD."

The on-the-job experience that Janell Booker received illustrates why the Delaware Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) is such a strong supporter of Disability Mentoring Day. "Providing students with special needs the opportunity to shadow employees at a variety of businesses will greatly enhance their ability to make their own meaningful career choices in the future," DVR Director Andrea Guest said.

Prospective employers who are interesting in hosting a student during the morning of Oct. 21 are asked to call Brian Freedman at UD's Center for Disabilities Studies at 302-831-4688 (about possible New Castle County job locations); or Jocelyn Langrehr at the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation at 302-761-8275 (about possible Kent and Sussex County job locations).

NOTE TO MEDIA: To download photos from Delaware's Disability Mentoring Day 2014, go to:

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.

Last Updated: Tuesday August 25 2015
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