EDUCATION IS NOT ENOUGH
EDUCATION, MENTAL ILLNESS AND DISABILITY—A MODEL FOR
Dr. Candace Cole-McCrea
During my career as an educator, I found that transition development models that integrated academics with career development were lacking or inadequate for people with many inhibiting types of disabilities, including mental illness. I decided to develop a model.
I designed, developed and utilized this model successfully for students with a variety of career goals and academic majors. This model is developed to serve as a 4 course model and is designed to be accepted as elective courses in the student’s academic plan. Students who initially felt inadequate to fully participate in a career world gained confidence, competence, self assurance and a sense of fulfillment. This model goes beyond the traditional school-to-work models in that it builds not only success, but fulfillment into the lives of every student who applies themselves within it.
The model depends on the administrator being able to develop two vital relationships; if either is inadequate, the program will fail. The two relationships are:
- A close mentor relationship with the student, wherein the student trusts the administrator to move them into situations beyond their comfort zone; the trust is so deep that the student will believe the mentor/administrator who insists the student can do more than the student has ever known themselves to be able to do. This relationship with the student, especially if the student has a mental illness, must have the chance to grow personally and slowly so trust can be built. Persons with mental illness and some other disabilities do not always easily trust persons who work for and represent agencies which may have agendas of their own.
- Multiple relationships with companies, agencies, organizations within the world of work. (In my program, I developed over 100 active work sites.) The quality of this program depends directly on the number of these relationships the administrator develops. They must be developed one-on-one (administrator to company) and personal interface must be frequent to maintain well-being. These relationships must also be slowly built on trust. The company the administrator wishes to send a student with a mental illness or other disability into must know that the student has been screened and can be confident that the student will be an asset to the company. They must know that if there are any difficulties, the administrator will respect and support the company’s interests as well as that of the student. They need to know that they are not going to be providing a service without getting substantial benefits from the student for their time and effort. They need to know that all liability issues are covered and that the administrator will protect both the student and the company.
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The Basic Model - An Overview of the Curriculum
The series of four courses are called Professional Seminars. They may be taken at any time during the secondary or postsecondary years, but must be taken in order as one builds on the other. I have found them especially successful for persons with mental illness, or persons with anxiety, fear of failure, low self confidence, regardless of disability or non-disability. They are suitable for many students with developmental disabilities as well.
The following are objectives for each semester (each could be expanded to a whole academic year course, if more suitable to the students in secondary school, for example).
PROSEM 1 (Professional Seminar 1) OBJECTIVES:
Develop a short term plan and personal objectives for completion of the ProSem series.
Evaluate and discuss how a career compliments their personal life and values.
Map a process of achieving their career goals and identify resources already known to them, as well as others they would like on their team.
Describe the impact of personal values on interpersonal and work relationships.
Demonstrate the ability to use appropriate work language and social skills.
Discuss the behavior of self and others and how it relates to business conduct.
Identify and research 6 agencies, programs and/or companies in a community available to the student to help them develop options for personal and professional growth
Visit 6 agencies, programs and/or companies and be able to discuss the company’s purpose and how and if that company, agency or program would match with their own goals.
Write thank you letters to each of the 6 sites visited.
PROSEM II (Professional Seminar 2) OBJECTIVES:
Demonstrate the ability to self assess one’s behavior in social situations.
Demonstrate the ability to resolve interpersonal conflicts, with support, if desired.
Demonstrate understanding of how to proceed if a conflict occurs in a work situation.
Education is Not Enough 3
Describe the importance of professional behavior in a workplace setting.
Describe how personal style impacts and affects relationships and social situations.
Demonstrate basic understanding of social skills of respect, listening, assertion and negotiation.
Demonstrate the ability to produce a reflective journal of volunteer and work world learning - written, verbal, visual, etc.
Demonstrate knowledge of people first language.
Demonstrate a basic understanding and respect for differences of cultures, races, lifestyles, one might find in the workplace.
Demonstrate responsibility, attendance, timeliness, grooming and appropriate attire for the workplace.
Volunteer for a total of 45 hours during the semester to be divided into at least 3 different agencies/companies/programs from a variety of fields of interest to the student (under direct supervision from the administrator)
Demonstrate an ability to participate with the administrator in a closing interview with each site supervisor.
Write a letter to thank each volunteer site where the student participated.
PROSEM III (Professional Seminar 3) OBJECTIVES:
(ProSem 3 may be a paid position; or it may be volunteer position)
Articulate and share understanding of self in relation with clients, customers, peers, supervisors, and professionals in the work place.
Demonstrate responsibility, attendance, timeliness, grooming and appropriate attire for the workplace over a semester long commitment
Develop an in-depth day to day journal of one’s entire internship experience - written, verbal, visual, etc.
Develop with site supervisor and administrator a work plan/project of professional learning and contribution to the site to be completed at the same site in 45 hours, to be divided throughout the semester according to the needs of the site and the student.
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Demonstrate. Biweekly, an ability to request and meet with supervisor, with minimum support for administrator, to discuss one’s successes and areas of needed improvement in a work setting.
Design and present to the class a report of one’s experiences as a volunteer in ProSem2 and as a longer term worker in ProSem 3. Invite the site supervisors to this presentation with mailed invitations. Demonstrate the ability to dress appropriately for this special event with appropriate clothing and grooming.
Write a thank you note to the site supervisor.
PROSEM IV (Professional Seminar 4) OBJECTIVES:
Identify and describe ten top personal transferable skills.
Identify and describe ten work skills learned through the seminar series.
Identify and describe main personality characteristics to include strengths and weaknesses.
Describe and evaluate potential employment sites for their suitability to personal needs, values and goals.
Identify and prepare an action plan of needs to be met to support career success.
Identify areas of difficulty and how to meet those challenges.
Develop a one year, five year, and ten year life plan.
Develop a career portfolio to include:
Letters of recommendation from all sites, as possible
Letters of recommendation from all other work/community involvement
One year, five year, and ten year life plan
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- Application to Become a Work/Volunteer/Internship Site
- Memorandum of Understanding between academic institution and site
- Site Supervisor Agreement
- Site Supervisor Evaluation form (to evaluate student)
- Site/Internship/Volunteer Attendance Record
Through the use of this series, this author has been able to successfully integrate students with severe mental illnesses, some developmental disabilities, and many other disabilities into successful career positions for pay upon graduation. Other students have decided anew to go on through postsecondary school. I can not speak strongly enough, however, for the need for the administrator to be empathetic and trusted, yet firm in insisting on commitments being met by students. Success has been met repeatedly even with students with severe schizophrenia and agoraphobia, who prior to the program did not venture out of their homes. Students themselves spread the word to others, who came first phoned, often timidly, and asked, hesitantly, about the program. The flexibility of the administrator to allow prospective students to “visit and run” without commitment, while the relationship between them is being built is crucial. Small classes of no more than 8-10 students are also crucial wherein each student can be recognized, valued and strengthened each week by the administrator/instructor.
For further information on the design or implementation of this program, please contact:
Dr. Candace Cole-McCrea, Professor Emeritus
60 Ford Farm Road
Milton NH 03851
*Samples of forms are available upon request.