Learning from YAP Leader Jennifer Williams - Article Details

Learning from YAP Leader Jennifer Williams

by Courtney Reimann, with Jennifer Williams

Philadelphia based Networks for Training and Development recently held their 20th Employment Symposium. The theme for the October 2020 event was “Connecting Talent to Opportunities!” YAP Behavioral Specialist Consultant, Jennifer Williams MS, participated in this virtual event by sharing information related to YAP’s YAPWORX training system.

Collaboration creates a strength, a renewal, and a drive to work towards improvement

Jennifer’s presentation is described as: “Youth Advocate Programs have been providing pre- employment transition services (Pre-Ets) to young people in a locked down detention center. This blends behavioral health, juvenile justice, and developmental disability programs together, to teach pre-employment skills. Learn how to organize, plan, and conduct Pre-Ets for non-traditional populations while honoring critical social justice considerations.

Here, Jenny provides some background and explains how she was called upon to present to the group and describes the information she shared during the symposium.

What is the employment symposium?

The symposium is a conference to support the development of professionals, individuals, and families working towards more inclusive and diverse workplaces and opportunities.

What got you noticed by the organizers?

I had the pleasure of presenting at PATTAN's 2019 PA Community on Transition Conference. Networks for Training and Development staff were present and invited me to present at their Symposium.

How did you participate?

The conference was held virtually. I was able to present information and have a discussion with the attendees afterwards. With the use of a chat box and moderators, the group was able to interact and provide feedback throughout the session as well.

What did you focus on during the presentation?

I shared about how to utilize pre-employment transition services (Pre-ETS) with the juvenile justice population. The focus was very much on essential understanding of the issues these youth face on a regular basis. We discussed trauma, poverty, disability, mental health, racism, segregated education, community and generational oppression, and more. There was a review of how our criminal justice system only compounds the factors which lead to criminal behavior in youth to begin with.

How do you relate to the youth in the YAPWORX program?

When teaching the modules of YAPWORX, it's important to make sure the information translates in a way that makes it relevant to the youth in each group. This is why relationship building is critical. Getting to know the experiences of each of the youth and what is important to them allows the facilitators to cater the presentation, activities, and approach towards each participant.

Who participates in or receives YAPWORX training?

We have a set of adjusted material geared towards developmentally disabled (DD) students and a set towards juvenile justice (JJ) students. Our JJ curriculum includes topics such as returning home from incarceration and how to utilize skills, employment, and schooling to stay out of placement.

There is quite a bit of opportunity to empower within the program. With our DD population, we can talk about disability and workplace rights, the right to disclose (or not to), and how each person can advocate for their needs and/or work with their employer on creating accommodations for successful employment.

With our JJ population, we cover a bit of this as well. Because what we see is that the JJ population includes incredibly high numbers of disabled youth and childhood trauma - which negatively impacts their development.

We also talk about societal factors which have and will continue to impact these youth. Not only is it important for them to know their rights as related to disclosure of criminal record, it is important for them to understand how they may be misjudged based on race, how they dress, and the socioeconomic placement of their family. We make sure to provide information and insight, while helping to teach constructive responses to these challenges.

What did you learn from the experience?

Just as I did at the Community on Transition Conference, I noticed a passion and energy from the participants. There is a sense of frustration of working within systems that chronically do not meet the needs of the people being served. And there is a recognition of like frustration by those involved in receiving services. I learned that collaboration creates a strength, a renewal, and a drive to work towards improvement.

The PA Office of Vocational Rehabilitation funds and oversees Pre Employment Training Services. Pre-Ets is designed to support young people aged 14-21 who are transitioning or moving beyond the educational system and establishing a productive adult life. Any student with a physical disability, mental health diagnosis, or developmental disability qualifies for Pre-Ets. YAP has been offering Supported Employment services for close to 4 years.




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