Navigating the college experience can be daunting: taking measure of your own skills and interests, choosing a major well-suited to those interests, and, of course, mastering the network of people, offices and resources that are critical to earning a diploma.
Doing so with a disability, especially in the midst of a global pandemic, adds complexities to an already challenging environment. Fortunately, The University of Toledo is demonstrating early success in a statewide program to empower disabled students as they successfully transition from college life to full-time careers.
College2Careers, a program offered by Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, was announced in fall 2019 and is supporting students at 15 public colleges and universities around the state. Through each institution’s disability and career services offices, College2Careers helps provide career exploration, assistive technology, resumé preparation and more for students to complete their degree, earn higher wages, and meet the demands of employers.
The University of Toledo was selected as a participating institution at the program’s launch based on a combination of census information of students with disabilities, a need for geographic representation throughout Ohio, and the availability of dedicated space and resources.
“College2Careers was conceptualized as a way to close gaps in services for students, not only during college, but after graduation as well,” said Tinola Mayfield-Guerrero, a vocational rehabilitation counselor embedded with UToledo’s Student Disability Services Office.
“Through a collaborative process and conversation with each student, we’re able to take a holistic, ‘listen first’ approach that helps them understand the system. We want the graduation and employment experience to be seamless.”
Part of the program’s potential is to address urgent disparities in the workforce. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 80% of persons with a disability are unemployed nationwide, compared to only 34% for those without a disability.
The Student Disability Services team implementing College2Careers at UToledo has shown success with assisting students with disabilities, in large part because of how immersed Mayfield-Guerrero is within their office and workflow.
“Developed with the staff at the Student Disability Services Office, UToledo’s process helps incoming students understand how the program can help them during college and in achieving their career goals,” said Kristin Garrett, program administrator at Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities. “They have worked together to set up a system of serving students with disabilities that has been very effective and successful.”
College2Careers is already showing promising results among students. Fawad Khan, a computer science and engineering technology major expecting to graduate in spring 2021, is legally deaf and worked with UToledo’s team on virtual interviewing skills.
“When everything shut down due to the pandemic, I was worried. I’m more used to in-person interviews,” Khan said. “But after the coaching and training, I felt very comfortable during a remote interview with a recruiter. The questions were very similar to our practice sessions, and I feel like I aced it.”
For more information on College2Careers or other resources, contact UToledo’s Student Disability Services team at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419.530.4981.