Article by Bill Mazzoleni. Photo by Kari Jones.
HDI Research Assistant, Stephen Craker, was born in Indiana where he graduated with a degree in Psychology. He is specializing in school Psychology. Currently, he is working with Christina Espinosa. He helps Ms. Espinosa with capturing and transcribing presentations. He also assists her with rehab data entry. Along with Ms. Espinosa, Mr. Craker also works with Walt Bower with marketing at seminars. Mr. Craker’s favorite flavor of ice cream is coffee, and his favorite book is The Great Divorce.
Mr. Craker is interested and excited to learn and develop his knowledge while studying and assisting current research. His ultimate goal is to bring awareness and understanding at all levels to the schools he will work in. He would like to bring awareness to administration, faculty, students, etc. He would like to be able to bring knowledge through research and practical experiences to be able to live alongside students who are living with disabilities.
The University of Kentucky’s Human Development Institute (HDI), along with valuable partners, has received a five-year Partnership in Employment Systems Change grant from the Administration for Community Living. The grant will help students with the most significant disabilities, specifically students age 18-21, transition from school to meaningful employment or postsecondary education in their communities.
HDI; the Kentucky Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR); Department of Education; Division of Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities; Protection and Advocacy; Office for the Blind; Commonwealth Council on Developmental Disabilities; Office of Autism; and the Kentucky Autism Training Center will work together to directly impact post-school outcomes for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout Kentucky. This state-level intervention will impact students at the most critical point – their final years of school.
HDI’s aim, over the five years of this grant, is to improve youth outcomes within each of the Commonwealth’s 174 school districts by increasing integrated employment and participation in postsecondary education.
“As my son enjoys a wonderfully inclusive setting during his high school years, we constantly think about how we can channel his talents and people skills into a meaningful career,” said Stephanie Meredith, HDI information services director and the mother of a 16-year-old with Down syndrome. “I’m so incredibly excited to work on a project like this to help other young men and women like my son avoid ‘the cliff’ after high school and, instead, move seamlessly into employment opportunities where they can fulfill their potential as valuable members of their communities.”
The Partnership in Employment Systems Change intends to accomplish this goal by establishing a state-level employment work group that consists of the above partners, with representation from self-advocates and family members, to conduct a statewide needs assessment and develop policies fostering competitive, integrated employment as the first, preferred choice of youth with the most significant disabilities. HDI will also conduct professional development; create and disseminate information resources to families and students, as well as practitioners and employers; and track data outcomes to make sure we are making an impact.
Kathy Sheppard-Jones, the project’s lead and HDI executive director, is enthusiastic about the possibilities.
“The commitment that our partners have shown in developing this grant has been tremendous,” she said. “In bringing together state leaders, family members and self-advocates, we have an unprecedented opportunity to make significant strides in building stronger communities for all Kentuckians, and particularly for students with the most significant disabilities. Students should end their high school journey with excitement to begin the next chapter of their lives — lives that include work, learning and meaningful participation in their communities. It’s an honor to be part of the Kentucky Employment Partnership.”
See article in UK NOW.
The University of Kentucky Human Development Institute will participate with partners across the Commonwealth in a new health promotion program in concert with the Kentucky Department for Behavioral Health, Development and Intellectual Disabilities. The initiative, called Project CHEER, will aim to positively impact the health and well-being of Kentuckians with physical and intellectual disabilities.UK HDI Part of New Health Promotion Program for Individuals With DisabilitiesRead More…