The I Am Self-Advocacy Program (IASA) 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 weekly individual and group sessions. During the individual sessions, students work one-on-one with a peer mentor discussing topics integral to self-advocacy, with each topic building on the last. After working with the peer mentor at a speed and level that is conducive to their learning, the students meet with their peers in a group environment to delve deeper into program topics, participating in group activities and debates.
By the end of the program, the students will have put together their own self-advocacy portfolio to include things they learned regarding 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.
ECNV is working closely with Alexandria City Public Schools and the DARS Alexandria office to bring a pilot session of the I Am Self-Advocacy Program (IASA) to Alexandria City High School! This in-school program session is slated to begin in February 2023. Rather than meeting virtually twice a week—in an individual session and in a group session—to discuss advocacy-related topics, this in-school program session will have students meet in-person, individually as well as a group, in alternating weeks.
ECNV Peer Mentor, Paul Whitley, will lead this pilot IASA program in the school setting. “I’m thrilled about the opportunity to take IASA to the classroom environment. It’ll open doors in terms of what our program can look like as we continue to pursue a participant-driven self-advocacy program,” Whitley exclaims. Bringing the IASA program into the school classroom will also alleviate scheduling conflicts that some students have when wanting to participate in the regular IASA program sessions which are conducted during after-school hours.
At this time, the in-school IASA program is limited to eligible students attending Alexandria City High School, but ECNV is still offering its regular program sessions quarterly to students residing in the Counties of Fairfax, Arlington, Loudoun, and Prince William, as well as to the Cities of Fairfax, Alexandria, Falls Church, Manassas, and Manassas Park. 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.
The Winter Program Session begins January 23rd and ends March 24th. The referral deadline for the Winter Session is January 6, 2023, so please request a referral as soon as possible!
For more information about the program, please contact the Program Coordinator, Hannah Roberts at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ECNV’s office number at 703-525-3268.