Disability Mentoring Day Leaves Imprints on Everyone
Kessler Foundation hosted three students from Horizon High School—Andre C., Samone I., and Timesha J.—for Disability Mentoring Day (DMD) on October 19, 2011. Since 1999, DMD has taken place on the third Wednesday of October as part of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Goals of DMD include raising awareness of the need to hire people with disabilities, easing the fears of employers, giving individuals with disabilities job exposure, and increasing their confidence. But at Kessler Foundation, it means even more.
When the students arrived, Kessler Foundation “mentors” and guides introduced themselves and asked the students to tell them a little bit about themselves. Andre, a veteran of the process, was at the Foundation for the second year in a row. “This is the last time you’ll see me,” he exclaimed. “I’m graduating this year!”
Samone explained why she was excited for the day’s activities. “I want to learn how to get a job so I can work after I graduate and make money,” she said.
When it was time for Timesha to say a few words, however, her shyness got the best of her. She buried her head in her sweatshirt, too embarrassed to speak in a room full of strangers.
Following introductions, each student received employee ID badges and rotated to six work stations. First, they learned how to administer memory tests. The students had to look at faces and determine their emotions—a common evaluation given by Kessler Foundation researchers in the Neuropsychology & Neuroscience Laboratory.
Next, they learned how individuals with spinal cord injuries (SCI) relearn to drive with the sole use of hand controls. The Foundation’s SCI researchers allowed each student to take a turn in the simulated driving machine. While this was their first driving experience, they didn’t let mistakes bother them. They kept trying until they got it right.
Then it was time to head to the Human Performance and Engineering Lab. Researchers explained how motion sensors enable them to analyze how the body moves so they can suggest changes in movement to improve function. They organized a game of miniature golf, in which Andre, Samone, and Timesha hit the sensor to try to get it as close to the target sensor as possible. The students’ aim was better than the scientists.
The librarians in Kessler Foundation’s Medical Library then taught them how to find and organize books and perform administrative tasks. They also learned how to support the scientists and conduct research to help them find information they need to complete their studies.
Next, they went on to the purchasing department. After a brief explanation, they put their typing and budgeting skills to the test ordering equipment for the Foundation.
Their last stop before lunch was practicing their interview skills and learning how to present themselves to employers. A Foundation employee with a severe physical disability gave tips on winning over prospective employers and, once on the job, how to devise ways to do the job effectively. She reminded them that only their abilities matter. When they left the mock-interview, they said, “I’m not going to let anything stop me!” Timesha also promised to introduce herself to the Foundation crew.
During lunch, they exchanged friendly conversation with the Foundation’s guides and mentors, just as they would in a workplace. There was just enough gossip to keep everyone laughing. It was clear that Kessler Foundation’s employees were having even more fun than the students.
After lunch, they got to the fun part of the day—a casual interview with Kessler Foundation’s mock radio show. It was time for each of to reveal more about themselves. Andre shared his dreams of being a rapper. Samone’s goal is to become a nurse so she can help others. Timesha, who was too shy to even say her name in the morning, opted for a career helping people with disabilities. She also discussed her artistic qualities. To show just how far she came in less than three hours, she sang a song to a room full of people. The day couldn’t get much better.
When it was time to say goodbye, eyes filled with tears. Everyone wanted to get one last hug. “I won’t see you again,” Andre said. “I’m graduating.”
“We may not see you here next year, but we will see you again,” Kessler Foundation employees said. “Just make sure you go on to do great things.”
With a nod of his head and a smile, Andre, Samone, and Timesha went back to Horizon High School. The imprints of the day will remain on the hearts and minds of the students, their job coaches, and everyone involved from Kessler Foundation for a lifetime.
View photos from Disability Mentoring Day by visiting Kessler Foundation on Facebook!