Employment and Community Inclusion: Meet Rashad

HDC celebrates Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

Each March, we join the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACCD) to highlight the many ways in which people with and without disabilities come together to form strong, diverse communities. This social media campaign, known as “Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month” or #DDawareness2021, seeks to raise awareness about the inclusion of people with developmental disabilities, as well as awareness of the barriers that people with disabilities still face in connecting to the communities in which they live.

The graphic for Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month 2021 designed by Eileen Schofield.

The Human Development Center (HDC) strives to achieve inclusion throughout a person’s development by offering tools and resources from early childhood into high school age. A major life milestone we are all aware of, regardless of disability, is employment. Jobs support us financially, build self-confidence, and allow for independence. This part of life that many of us take for granted is an incredible opportunity for self-sufficiency and community inclusion. However, young adults with disabilities may find life after high school difficult if they do not have a foothold in the community. Fortunately, HDC’s PAYcheck program has helped high school students prepare for this jump to adulthood by transitioning them to employment for the last 5 years.

About the PAYcheck Program

Postsecondary Apprenticeship for Youth (PAYcheck) is an innovative collaboration between HDC, Louisiana Rehabilitation Services (LRS), Delgado Community College, public school systems, and employers in the New Orleans metro area. PAYcheck is a 3 semester program where students participate in courses at Delgado Community College, engage in professional career development activities, learn community and work-related skills, and gain employment experience through two 10-week paid internships/apprenticeships.

As NACCD points out in the introduction, people with disabilities still face barriers in connecting to the communities in which they live. While such barriers make employment difficult, PAYcheck’s Transition Specialists help participants identify barriers then strategize a path to overcome these challenges.

PAYcheck participant Notoria smiling with an employee ID badge at the office of her paid internship.

A tangible example of barriers to employment is transportation. Most PAYcheck participants have never used public transportation, which weakens access to employment opportunities. However, the PAYcheck program offers bus training to prepare participants for travel, giving them independent access to the community. In fact, this skill helped PAYcheck participant Rashad Brooks succeed. Rashad was introduced to bus travel through the PAYcheck program and now uses public transportation to get to and from work.

Meet Rashad

Since entering the PAYcheck program, Rashad Brooks has exhibited great independence, self-confidence, and respect for himself and the staff. Through PAYcheck, Rashad enrolled at Delgado Community College for courses like Customer Service, College Success Skills, and Computer Fundamentals. In his third semester of the program, he started his first paid internship at Subway as a Sandwich Artist. He completed 10 weeks/240 hours at this site and was offered permanent employment.

PAYcheck participant Rashad Brooks smiling in a professional outfit.

“Rashad’s hard work and dedication shined bright. Rashad loves his coworkers and was thrilled to be offered employment! The PAYcheck staff are very proud of Rashad and what he has accomplished so far!”

Carmel Polk, PAYcheck Transition Employment Specialist