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The Pathways for Individuals with Disabilities’ Integrated Education and Training Program

by Rachel Ambrose

As a Regional Program Manager (RPM), I am like many in our profession who did not start out seeking a career in adult education. Instead, I began by spending several years in a middle school social studies classroom before making the transition to part-time GED® instructor at the local library, which put me on the path to my adult education career that has lasted for more than 20 years.

Growing up, my brother and I attended an Easter Seals facility located in my hometown where they paired physically and cognitively impaired youth with others who did not have a disability for buddy weekends. It was the first time I was exposed to individuals who were not like me. By the time I entered high school, I started volunteering with the Connecticut Special Olympics and was paired over the years with Andy and Marta. Both runners and swimmers, the two resided at Thompson House Group home, which was a residence for ten individuals who had cognitive and visual impairments. The Thompson House gang became such good friends of mine that they attended my high school graduation party and as a result of my experiences, I thought I was going to be an occupational therapist when I went off to college. While this plan did not happen, what did happen was even better.

Fast-forward to 2015, where my path led me to work for the Virginia Department of Education’s Office of Adult Education. Here, I was able to realize my dream of working with the disabled community by participating in the partnership between our office and the Department of Rehabilitation Services (DARS) on the Career Pathways for Individuals with Disabilities grant. This state grant connected adult education and DARS partners using the PluggedIn Virginia (PIVA) Integrated Education and Training (IET) model.

By November 2017, my love for program management led me to the Peninsula Regional Education Program (PREP) as the RPM and in the Fall of 2019, PREP partnered with DARS on the Career Pathways or Individuals with Disabilities project. This opportunity for adult education providers has enabled PREP to create an Integrated Education and Training (IET) program that met our DARS partner’s needs—virtual instruction with self-paced instruction. After many iterations of the model, I have a few key takeaways to share when working with DARS (or other partners) and enrolling their clients into IETs.

 1.  Identify the partner who is responsible for completing which tasks.

The following were identified to be completed by DARS:

    • Complete CASAS Reading Min. 238 (8th grade) Math 222 (7th) 214 MOS.
    • Client meets with DARS Counselor to complete referral form.
    • Send CASAS score report and referral form to PREP IET Coordinator.
    • Start accommodation process for credential testing if necessary.
    • Set date for CASAS post-testing.
    • DARS coach adds credential testing dates to calendar after PREP staff confirms date in third week of class.

The following were identified to be completed by the PREP adult education program:

    • ASPD
    • FERPA
    • Media Release
    • Student MOU including testing expectations
    • Release of Information documentation signed
    • Student orientation to program, i.e. career coach, technology needed, class details, and expectations
    • Weekly updates sent to DARS Counselor.

2.  Determine funding for the class. Will the adult education grants cover any or all of the expenses for the IET? For the adult education program to count the data in the LACES reporting system, some part must be funded by adult education funds. If the partner will be invoiced, plan ahead how that will be done and make sure this process is in place ahead of time.

3.  Set up meetings with the partners who are decision makers. PREP typically meets at the beginning and end of a cohort or whenever the partner makes a request. Having an agenda with some bullets is also helpful to keep everyone on task and even better if it is sent out before the meeting day.

4.  Be flexible. Most of us who have been in adult education for many years already know this. Things happen, and as long as everyone keeps this in mind, it will work out. Because in the end, we are all in it for the students.

In the current year, we at PREP (located in Hampton Roads), have served approximately 1,250 adult learners—30% of which are enrolled in an integrated education and training program. And while I was never going to become that occupational therapist, the path on which I ultimately ended has led me to where I am today. I am delighted to be in a position where I work with such a diverse group of learners who all have the opportunity to achieve success.

For more information about developing career pathways for individuals with disabilities, go to the Virginia’s Pathways to Careers website: https://www.dars.virginia.gov/drs/cpid/ or contact Rachel Ambrose at Rachel.ambrose@nn.k12.va.us.

Photo of Rachel AmbroseRachel Ambrose is the Regional Program Manager (RPM) for the Peninsula Regional Education Program in Newport News. As RPM, she oversees the ABE, GED®, ESOL, and workforce programs in Newport News, Hampton, Poquoson, York, Williamsburg, and James City County. Rachel’s previous experience includes being a classroom instructor, regional education specialist for adult education, and the specialist for adult federal programs and career pathways at the Virginia Department of Education. She is the current president of the Virginia Association for Adult and Continuing Education (VAACE).