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College and Career Success Summer Pre-ETS Academies

About the Academies

The Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) partners with Virginia’s Community Colleges to sponsor summer academies for Students with Disabilities to explore career pathways through hands-on activities at a local college campus. Since this partnership began in 2022, some examples of career pathways explored by participants include:

  • Heavy Equipment Operation,
  • Advanced Manufacturing (including Machining & Welding),
  • Information Technology (including Robotics, Web Design/Computer Coding, Cybersecurity, and Digital Photography),
  • Aviation (e.g. Drones), and
  • Digital Multimedia

There are currently four community colleges (Blue Ridge, Virginia Peninsula, Southwest, and Eastern Shore Community Colleges) who have partnered with DARS to host a total of six academies in the summer of 2022. Virginia DARS looks forward to continuing these partnerships in 2023 and is actively seeking additional Community Colleges who are interested in hosting academies in the summer of 2023.

Who’s Eligible to Participate?

The College and Career Success Summer Pre-ETS Academies are sponsored by Virginia DARS using funds reserved for Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) and are therefore intended for Students with Disabilities. Students with Disabilities who may receive DARS-funded Pre-ETS and participate in VCCS Summer Pre-ETS Academies must meet the following criteria:

  • Between the ages of 14 to 21 (22 if still enrolled in high school); AND
  • Actively enrolled in a secondary (including home school or other alternative secondary education programs), postsecondary, or other recognized education program; AND
  • Receiving special education or related services under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) OR identified as individuals with a disability for the purposes of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Contact Martin.Kurylowski@dars.virginia.gov if you are interested in learning more and/or possibly attending a College Career and Success Summer Pre-ETS Academy.

Summer 2023 Application Materials for Community Colleges

Virginia Community Colleges who have not previously completed an application to host a College and Career Success Summer Pre-ETS Academy must review and submit the ‘2023 VCCS Summer Pre-ETS Academy Application’ to Martin.Kurylowski@dars.virginia.gov by C.O.B. January 27th, 2023.

2023 VCCS Summer Pre-ETS Academy Application Packet


Academy Success Stories


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Blue Ridge Community College

vccs summer academy Blue Ridge Community College (BRCC) partnered with DARS to host a four-day Summer Pre-ETS Academy on the BRCC campus. Sixteen (16) students w ere sponsored by DARS to attend the program and explore career pathways within the fields of Information Technology (e.g. robotics, digital photography, cyber security, and web design/computer coding) and Advanced Manufacturing (Welding/Machining).

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weldingStudents were provided hands-on, high tech and interactive lessons in four areas of information technology. The four areas explored under the career path of information technology were web design, robotics, cybersecurity/coding, and digital photography. The welding & machining program introduced students to the industries of welding, metal forming and fabrication. The students also learned about computer controlled machining and the machining process. robotThe welding and machining program explored multiple facilities such as Dynamic Aviation, Accutech, Ball and many others to see the welding and machining processes first hand. Students learned about the potential for employment in both Information Technology and Welding/Machining. Students received career counseling to aid in exploration of their higher education interests for post-secondary enrollment following the completion of high school.

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Southwestern Virginia Community College

summer workforce academy Southwest Virginia Community College (SWCC) supported students in a Summer Workforce Academy on the SWCC campus. The academy was five days and focused on career opportunities available in Advanced Manufacturing (welding) and Heavy Equipment Operation. Students met with SWCC vocational instructors and utilized virtual reality, simulation exercises, and augmented reality technology to explore career opportunities. The clients also had the opportunity to earn an American Red Cross Adult and Pediatric First Aid/CPR/AED certification.

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Eastern Shore Community College

drone flyer The Eastern Shore Community College (ESCC) hosted a week-long Pre-ETS academy focusing on aerospace careers, specifically unmanned aircraft systems (i.e. drones). Students in this academy had the opportunity to receive instruction and hands-on experience operating flight simulators and drone equipment.

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A local employer, Accomack-Northampton Electric Cooperative, presented information to students about their company and how they utilize drones in their work setting. Students were educated on additional careers involving drones such as insurance agents, realtors, photographers/videographers, linemen, wind tunnel operators, emergency/rescue personnel, law enforcement, medical transporters, and more. At the end of this week-long program, students earned the FAA Recreational USA Safety Test (TRUST) Completion Certificate which allows them to operate drones recreationally, thereby creating a path forward for them to continue developing skills in this field.


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Tidewater Community College (TCC) Summer College & Career Success Academy

Tidewater Community College (TCC) hosted a two-day program for students with disabilities designed to offer an introduction to TCC and provide them with engaging career and educational workshops to improve their transition from high school to postsecondary education options. The topics students covered included career exploration, financial aid, self-advocacy skills (including requesting accommodations and exploring assistive technology for college success), and preparatory college success skills.