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Independent Living Center Staff Spark Interest Among Students at Bronx Community College Events

By Nila Salgado, Harlem, NY

Hostos Community College is a two-year college located in Bronx, New York. The student population at Hostos is predominantly Hispanic. Due to the large Hispanic student population - disabled and non-disabled - Hostos offers English as a Second Language (ESL) classes and high school equivalency classes with the opportunity to continue on to obtain an associate's degree. The Harlem Independent Living Center staff (HILC) participated in two events at the college to reach out to disabled Latino youth.

Disability Awareness Day

At Hostos' Disability Awareness Day event, staff from the Harlem Independent Living Center (HILC) was joined other disability-focused agencies such as The Commission for the Blind and Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities (VESID).

One of the goals of the Disability Awareness Day event is to make students with disabilities aware of the services available them. This includes vocational rehabilitation provided through VESID; assistance with becoming independent offered by HILC, and accommodations and other services for students with visual impairments offered by the Commission for the Blind.

Besides making students aware of the services provided by the different agencies, disability advocates also educated non-disabled students about disability awareness. For many non-disabled students who passed by HILC's table, seeing the executive director, who is Deaf, communicate with the assistance of an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter sparked interest about learning about people who are Deaf. Several students approached the executive director with questions about using an interpreter. They may have never seen a Latina with a disability who is a successful professional. After meeting her, some students stated they were interested in learning ASL.

Staff from Hostos including the head of admissions visited the disability advocates and expressed interest in finding ways to increase the number of disabled students at the school. HILC and Hostos are working on a collaboration to reach out to disabled adolescents with the goal of increasing the disabled student population at Hostos.

Disability Awareness Day not only educated the students about disability but also helped open the eyes of the administration of the importance of working with all students including those with disabilities.

Annual Job Fair

Every year in spring, thousands of students across the country graduate from college. For many, the transition between school and work can be scary without support. The Career Services Department at the Office of Student Development at Hostos has developed services that assist students in making this transition. Staffers in the Career Services Department prepare students by providing the following services: assistance with writing resumes, conducting mock interviews to enhance skills, and providing business attire to students for job interviews. The staff recruits employers to provide presentations at the school and interview students for job openings.

The Department staff also conducts an annual job fair. Last year, approximately 49 organizations and businesses including the police department, nursing homes, child care centers, and disability focused agencies including the Harlem Independent Living Center (HILC) attended.

At the event, the school gymnasium was buzzing with students and alumni dressed in suits with resumes in hand hoping to find employment. Hundreds of students, mostly Latino, approached the employers in a professional manner, eager to make the transition from school to employment. All of the students who attended the job fair were pre-screened by Career Services personnel in order to ensure quality prospective candidates for the employers.

The collaboration between the school, employers and the students is beneficial for everyone involved. The employers gain new employees eager to begin their careers, the students gain interview (and, hopefully job) experience, and the schools gain the reputation of preparing their students for the workforce.

Staff from HILC plan to attend these events every year to support Latino students with disabilities in higher education and who are transitioning to employment.

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