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October 21, 2002

Event matches mentors, disabled

From: Idaho Statesman, ID
Oct. 21, 2002

Goal is to promote career development and personal goals

Stephanie Eddy
The Idaho Statesman
More than 20 local students and job-seekers with disabilities were matched with people in the work force last week as part of National Disability Mentoring Day

A NDMD breakfast, hosted by Boise State University´s Disability Services and president´s office, kicked off the event Oct. 16. Representatives from the Idaho Department of Labor, Boise School District Special Education, Vocational Rehabilitation, BSU Transition Program, National MS Society-Idaho and The Arc of Caldwell were present.

Mentoring Day matched students and job seekers with employers for informational sessions about career opportunities and one-on-one mentoring.

NDMD, observed in 41 U.S. states, promotes career development for students and job-seekers with disabilities through job shadowing and hands-on career exploration. It is an opportunity to underscore the connection between school and work, evaluate personal goals, target career skills for improvement, explore possible career paths and develop lasting mentor relationships.

Deborah Allen, Boise, was partnered with Juanita Russell, an Alaska Airlines employee, to listen to calls at the Alaska Airlines reservation center in Boise.

“It was far better than I expected — very educational,” Allen said. “I bombarded her with questions, and in between phone calls, she graciously answered. I listened to her take phones calls and how she dealt with a variety of problems.”

“I was impressed with the way Juanita stayed patient and didn´t take it personally,” she said. “She was very cool and calm — she went the extra mile to help people even though they were sometimes rude to her.

“She did things she wasn´t required to do — it really opened my eyes,” Allen said. “I´ll be flying Alaska.”

For the past two years, Kristina K. Carrier, Eagle, has served as local coordinator for the event. Joining Carrier were Blaine Eckles, Boise State Disability Services; Cherie Buckner-Webb, Hewlett-Packard, a national sponsor of NDMD; Charlotte Lewis, Eagle; and Amber Mausling, Lee Hales, Tobi Adame and Cathy Steuart-Sherman of LINC, Boise and Caldwell.

“I am working to organize future Disability Mentoring Day activities throughout the state of Idaho and to identify a statewide NDMD coordinating committee to initiate career mentoring as a year-round experience and to encourage higher education for students with disabilities,” Carrier said. “Our participating mentees have very diverse career interests — everything from making pizza to funeral directing to accounting.”

Community mentoring partners included Alaska Air, HP, Pizza Hut, Boise State University and private academic mentors. Alaska Airlines sales team leader Grant Jacobson expects the company will participate again next year.

“Alaska Airlines is pretty dedicated to doing what they can in the community,” Jacobson said. “Because of the economic condition of the airline industry these days — we aren´t able to do as many things as we could in the past that were money-oriented — this is the kind of thing that we can do.”

Carrier hopes that promoting the event will help increase awareness of NDMD and the unemployment rate in Idaho and nationwide, which she said is approximately 70 percent for people with disabilities.

“Employed persons with disabilities are contributing to the tax base and helping to decrease complete reliance on Medicaid, Medicare and other programs to live,” she said.

“We are currently recruiting students and job seekers with qualified and documented disabilities, ages 16 and older, who are interested in education, a career and independent living,” she said. “Our primary goal is to defy the verdict on terminal unemployment and under-employment of Idahoans with disabilities.”

© 2002 The Idaho Statesman.