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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
Virginia Peninsula Community College (VPCC) supported students in three Pre-ETS summer academies on the VPCC campus. In the Digital Multimedia academy, students received hands-on opportunities to learn in this career pathway with activities such as taking/editing self-portraits and creating/editing a personal video. Students learned about workplace readiness skills and joined a presentation from the Disability Services Coordinator on how to obtain accommodations in college.
In the Unmanned Systems (e.g. drones) academy, students gained a basic understanding of important safety and regulatory information for drone systems. Furthermore, students had the opportunity to learn basic flight maneuvers and pass the recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST) to fly drones recreationally.
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).
Students 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. The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.