Cheers to One Year for I Am-Self Advocacy Program!

By Hannah Roberts, Director of Programs

The I Am Self–Advocacy Program is celebrating its 1st Anniversary this month. In November 2021, ECNV began their pilot session and worked exclusively with the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) Fairfax Office to offer the program to a small group of students. Now, a year later, ECNV is able to offer the program to students in its whole catchment area consisting Fairfax County, Arlington County, Loudoun County, as well as the Cities of Fairfax, Alexandria, and Falls Church. In addition, ECNV now offers the program to students working with the DARS Manassas Office which covers Prince William County, the City of Manassas, and Manassas Park.

The I Am Self–Advocacy Program is a Pre–Employment Transition Service (Pre–ETS) focused on helping students with disabilities, ages 16–22, hone their skills in self–advocacy through a combination of one–on–one sessions with a peer mentor and group sessions with their peers. Each week, the students focus on a particular topic integral to self–advocacy, with each topic building upon the last. By the end of the program, the students will have put together their own self–advocacy portfolio to include what they learned about self–awareness, disability awareness, self–determination, disability rights and responsibilities, how to be assertive, and how to engage allies and be an ally to others.

At this time, participants are meeting virtually for weekly individual sessions and weekly group sessions. Group sessions are on either Tuesdays or Wednesdays (4:15pm – 6:15pm) and provide an atmosphere for students to share their experiences with their peers and delve deeper into their self-advocacy journey. Students who complete the program leave with a greater understanding of accommodations, their rights, and how to advocate for themselves.

Our Fall Session began September 26th and will end December 2nd. The Winter Session begins January 2023, so please stay tuned.

ECNV will continue to offer program sessions quarterly. Students interested in participating should talk to their special education teacher or Employment and Transition Representative (ETR) at their school for assistance. Alternatively, reach out to your local DARS office to get started. All referrals must come from DARS.

For more information about the program, please contact the Program Coordinator, Hannah Roberts at hannahr@ecnv.org or call ECNV’s office number at 703–525–3268.