Empowering our Youth through Employment: DC3C Summer 2022

For many teenagers, summer jobs are an expected rite of passage. As adults, we remember summer jobs spent in fast food restaurants or clothing retailers making minimum wage, and the feeling of accomplishment upon receiving that first paycheck is deeply ingrained in our memory. Unfortunately, obtaining a summer job is not so simple for students with disabilities. Despite the ebbs and flows of the global economy, students with disabilities face consistent barriers to employment. Historically, the jobless rate for those with a disability is about twice as high as the rate for those without a disability. The Co-op is committed to developing programming to close the post-high school employment gaps for students with disabilities in DC. 

This summer, the Co-op DC3C’s program created a unique summer employment experience by hosting a five-week Summer Internship Program exclusively for students with disabilities. Our goal was to ensure that this often overlooked population of students was able to gain a paid work-based experience this summer. Research shows that students with disabilities who participate in paid work-based learning experiences during high school are more likely to obtain and maintain employment after school – highlighting just how incredibly important programs like DC3C are for our students!

The DC3C Summer Internship Program brought together six high school students, from all four quadrants of the city and hailing from both traditional and charter schools to work collaboratively on presentations focused on self-identity and career aspirations. During the program, we focused on empowering and improving students’ self-awareness, helping students apply soft skills to co-working relationships, and increasing leadership and communication skills, which are applicable in various work environments.

Our students worked diligently on their culminating presentations, incorporating self-expression and their unique personalities into every ounce of their PowerPoint presentations! The reactions from the guest judging panel were overwhelmingly positive, with judges commenting how impressed they were with each student’s poise and public speaking ability. 

To celebrate a summer full of growth and achievement, students were invited to an awards ceremony attended by Co-op staff, former DC3C instructors, and family members. The ceremony featured speeches from two DC3C program alumni as well as an original poem from a DC3C alumna who will attend UDC this fall.  After refreshments and celebratory cake, each student was presented with a certificate of achievement as well as a bag of DC3C swag. We reminded each student that they were forever part of our DC3C family! 

A five-week internship is only a small step in achieving employment parity for our students with disabilities. As we enter SY22-23, DC3C is committed to ensuring all students with disabilities have access to the “3 Cs”: college, career, and community. We sincerely hope, as community stakeholders, you will engage with us to empower our students. As partners in the fight, we need your support now more than ever! To get involved, please contact Mr. David Fridie at dfridie@specialedcoop.org! Ready to volunteer? Sign up today!

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