Tower Foundation Grant to Provide For More Vocational Education for North Shore Youth with Disabilities

A $226,786 grant from the Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation will enable North Shore Community College (NSCC) and the Northeast Arc (NeArc) to develop a postsecondary, vocationally-focused noncredit education program for North Shore residents ages 18-26, with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including autism.

NSCC and NeArc, who both provide programming to help youth up to age 26 participate in education and training after their high school years, will partner through the grant to offer the College and Career Access Project (CCAP), an innovative college-based education and workforce development program. Research has shown that young people with intellectual disabilities have more limited opportunities than their peers in making the transition to adult life and work.  Those who participate in post-secondary education have greater earning potential and are employed in larger numbers than non-educated peers. The CCAP will create a new postsecondary education experience with competitive employment as a potential outcome for young people.

The CCAP, which will begin in the fall of 2014, will offer noncredit certificate training in three career areas: Horticulture, Animal Care, and Arts/ Entrepreneurship. These programs of study were selected as they are both of interest to students and offer high potential for employment. Courses offered will be based on NSCC credit courses with imbedded accommodations to meet the learning needs of young adults with intellectual disabilities. The program will provide work readiness seminars, coursework in specific career pathways as well as supported internships. Together these elements will help the participants find, and be successful in, meaningful employment.

“The Tower Foundation is very pleased to support the development of the CCAP program at North Shore Community College.  Current programming at the college introduces young people with disabilities to the college experience and helps them explore their interests.  This is that critical next step that helps them build very specific workplace skills that employers are looking for,” said Tracy Sawicki, Tower Foundation Executive Director.  One of the Tower Foundation’s goals is to ensure that young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are engaged in meaningful social, vocational and educational pursuits.

 “We are thrilled to be partnering with the Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation and North Shore Community College to provide these classes and internships preparing youth with disabilities for careers in animal care, horticulture and the arts,” said Jerry McCarthy, Executive Director, Northeast Arc. 

Expanding postsecondary options for young people with intellectual disabilities who live on the North Shore is seen as essential by the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services staff, local special education personnel and community agencies. They recognize the tangible outcomes associated with postsecondary education.

Mandy Chalmers,  Northeast Regional Director of the Department of Developmental Services, said, “ Like any of us, for a person with intellectual disabilities, a job promotes self-esteem, encourages independence, and validates our role in the community.  CCAP will provide to the North Shore young people with intellectual disabilities a vocational program that offers training in the skills necessary to be employed.  I cannot think of a better way for dreams to come true.”  

For many years NSCC has offered classes to adults with intellectual disabilities through its “Project Access.” These classes were organized to respond to a range of interests and provided the adult participants with important social and recreational activities. Based on the popularity of Project Access, NSCC received many requests from parents and local school systems to develop a more formal college experience for the young adults.

Both NSCC and Northeast Arc are previous recipients of Tower Foundation support and have established a strong collaborative working relationship to serve and advance the interests of young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including autism.

Since 2011, through Tower Foundation support, NSCC has offered Project Access: Bridge to the Future, a post-secondary, vocationally-focused education program for young people with intellectual disabilities, ages 18-26, who are transitioning from high school to adult life. Bridge to the Future focuses on developing communication and workplace-related skills through a two semester cohort class model. It provides young adults with intellectual disabilities a college experience that incorporates noncredit courses, career awareness and planning activities, and also opportunities to participate in the social and cultural life of North Shore Community College with other students.  

Also with Tower support, the Northeast Arc created Tools for Independence, designed to serve young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities through vocational assessments, employment readiness classes, social skills training, life plan development, internship opportunities and job placement.

All students enrolled in CCAP will complete a vocational assessment during the spring or summer prior to their enrollment. Students will be assisted in the exploration of their interests and career goals through use of tools developed as part of the Arc’s Tools for Independence program. CCAP classes will be held on NSCC’s Lynn and Danvers campuses and in specialized community facilities. To inquire about participation in this new program or for more information, contact   Cindy O’Donnell at NSCC, or 978-762-4000 ext. 2153 or Lisa Leo at Northeast Arc,, 978-624-3060.

“We believe the CCAP will provide the next step in a continuum of transitional supports to employment and career development that the current programming of both organizations has initiated,” said Patricia A. Gentile, President of NSCC. 

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