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Disability Mentoring Day (DMD), a national program connecting thousands of students with disabilities with professions in their communities, has a face in Hawaiʻi. Matching high school students with their dream jobs and careers, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Education Center on Disability Studies (CDS) has taken the lead in facilitating new relationships between young people and employers with the aim of creating a level playing field for all young people in transition from high school to college and new careers.

During the week of October 15, 2012, local students with disabilities will be partnered up with organizations and businesses like the Honolulu Zoo, Bishop Museum, Morimoto’s, JJ’s French Bistro and Pastry, Café Lauffer, Hypersquad, University Laboratory School, and different departments within the University of Hawaiʻi system based on what students had stated as their dream career. For a day, these participating organizations, and others, will mentor students and give them some of the tools they will need to succeed.

“We need to increase awareness to our communities, including businesses, and let them know our young diverse learners have a lot to offer and should have the same opportunities as other young people,” said CDS Director Robert Stodden. “We need to decrease the dropout rate, open up post-secondary education opportunities and challenge the stereotypes of persons with disabilities which pervade in the workplace.”

Kaimuki High School teachers and transition counselors have taken the lead in promoting DMD in their schools. CDS hopes that in the coming years more high schools will join in as well as other businesses that strive towards an inclusive workplace.

As President Obama stated in his recent Presidential Proclamation of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, 2012, “All Americans are entitled to an accessible workplace, a level playing field, and the same privileges, pursuits, and opportunities as any of their family, friends, and neighbors. Let us rededicate ourselves to bringing down barriers and raising up aspirations for all our people, regardless of disability, so we may share in a brighter future together.”

For more information on Disability Mentoring Day or to get involved in the 2013 Initiative, please contact Charmaine Crockett at (808) 956-7539.

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