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Delaware Health and Social Services

DHSS Press Release

Date: October 19, 2015

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


NEW CASTLE (Oct. 19, 2015) - As an important way to advance employment opportunities for young people with disabilities, 36 employers in Delaware's three counties will provide job networking experiences for students with disabilities during the state's seventh Disability Mentoring Day on Wednesday, Oct. 21.

A total of 47 students will spend a portion of their day at workplaces learning about the skills that are required for jobs in which they have expressed an interest. For the first time, Delaware's Disability Mentoring will expand to all three counties, with students gathering at host sites at the Courtyard Marriott-University of Delaware in Newark, Dover Downs Hotel, and Woodbridge High School before leaving for their individual work sites.

"There is no more valuable experience that students with disabilities can have than one-on-one connections with an employer," Gov. Jack Markell said. "The students learn what is expected at a workplace and whether the position might meet their interests. For their part, these Delaware employers will get a chance to meet young people with incredible abilities and a willingness to work."

Disability Mentoring Day is a national program, and in Delaware, the collaboration involves several agencies, educational institutions and organizations, including the University of Delaware's Center for Disabilities Studies, the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS), the Department of Labor's Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, the Department of Education, Glasgow, Christiana, Smyrna, Dover and Woodbridge high schools, the Better Business Bureau, and Easter Seals. The group is co-chaired by two young people with disabilities - Alyssa Cowin, an operations support specialist with DHSS, and Julia Hensley, who recently finished an internship with Sen. Tom Carper.

"Preparing students and their families for the world of work is absolutely critical for students with disabilities," said DHSS Secretary Rita Landgraf, who will address the Dover and Woodbridge host sites via Skype on Oct. 21 from the Newark site. "Disability Mentoring Day helps to reinforce that expectation for a lifetime of work and moves it from classroom discussion to a real-world experience."

"The expansion of Disability Mentoring Day, where so many partners and all Delaware counties are now involved, marks real progress," said Brian Freedman, director of employment programs at the University of Delaware Center for Disabilities Studies. "Growing connections between employers, students and communities has been a goal of the center since we first coordinated Disability Mentoring Day activities in Delaware back in 2009."

In Newark, participating students will come from UD's Career & Life Studies Certificate (CLSC) program and Christiana and Glasgow high schools. In Dover, students from Dover and Smyrna high schools will participate. And in Woodbridge, the participants will be from Woodbridge High School. The students, their mentors, speakers and other dignitaries will gather at each host site at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 21. Students and their mentors will then leave the host sites to spend two hours at job sites, and then return to the host sites for lunch and to talk about their job networking experiences.

For students like Jay Siegel, who participated in the 2014 Disability Mentoring Day, the experience can help lead to an internship and/or a part-time or full-time position. "Disability Mentoring Day is a great opportunity for kids to learn about different jobs, to be involved with the community," he said. After Siegel's job networking experience last year at Bahama Breeze, he later had an internship at California Tortilla in Newark and now works part time at the Split Rail Tavern in West Chester, Pa. He will speak to this year's Disability Mentoring Day participants at the Newark host site.

The employers participating in Disability Mentoring Day are:

New Castle County (23): Ski Bum, Lieberman's Bookstore, Cabela's, U.S. Senator Chris Coons' Office - Wilmington, Bahama Breeze, Walgreens, Newark Manor, California Tortilla, Switch Skate & Snow, New Balance, PetSmart, and University of Delaware departments and centers: Facilities - Ground Services, Admissions Office, Pediatric Mobility Lab, Office of Communications, Soil Testing Program, College School, Physical Therapy Clinic, Dining Services POD Market, Dining Services Bakery, Carpenter Sports Building, Public Safety, and the Early Learning Center.

Kent County (7): Mind & Body Consortium, First State Animal Center and SPCA, Delaware Auto Service, Dover Downs - Culinary, Dover Downs - Retail Shops, Dover Downs - Landscaping and Delaware Electric Signal.

Sussex County (6): Western Sussex Animal Hospital, Georgetown Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Office, Delaware State Police, Grotto Pizza - Seaford, Raiders Child Care Center: Woodbridge Early Childhood Education Center and Delmarva Broadcasting.

In this video from last year's Disability Mentoring Day, Gov. Markell called on employers to offer more job opportunities to people with disabilities.

NOTE TO MEDIA: Specific employers in each county are open to media coverage at their work sites. Students will be at the work sites from 10 a.m. to noon Wednesday, Oct. 21. If you are interested in connecting with an employer, contact Jill Fredel at the Department of Health and Social Services at 302-255-9047 or 302-357-7498.

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 October 20 2015
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