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ECNV’s I Am Self-Advocacy Program: In-School Update and Spring Session 2023

The I Am Self-Advocacy (IASA) Program is a Pre-Employment Transition Service (Pre-ETS) focused on helping students with disabilities, ages 14-22, hone their skills in self-advocacy through a combination of individual and group sessions. Funded by the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), the IASA program is typically conducted over the course of 8-10 weeks with students working one-on-one with a peer mentor to discuss topics integral to self-advocacy and meeting with their peers in a group environment to delve deeper into program topics.

This 8 to 10-week program is offered quarterly to students referred by the Fairfax, Alexandria, Leesburg, and Manassas DARS offices. Although the Winter Program Session continues to the end of March, we are currently accepting referrals for our Spring Program Session slated to begin April 10th and end June 9th.

On February 14th, ECNV began piloting an in-school session for its IASA Program. Ten students at Alexandria City High School are utilizing part of their classroom time to participate in this inaugural program model working with a total of 5 peer mentors for their one-on-one sessions. Paul Whitney, who is spearheading this in-school program, is also providing in-service training for the peer mentors, and facilitating the group sessions every other week.

This in-school program model is currently only offered to Alexandria City High School. It spans 16 weeks due to the need for flexibility around the school schedule. Peer mentors meet students during school hours for individual and group sessions that are scheduled in alternating weeks. Not only does this model allow for in-person interactions, but it also alleviates the stress of scheduling after school or work hours for these busy young adults and their families.

Regardless of the program model, students work with their peer mentor at a speed and level that is individualized and conducive to their learning. During the weekly group sessions, they take what they have learned and participate in group activities and debates with their peers. 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.

Students interested in participating in the IASA program 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 referral deadline for the Spring Session is March 17, 2023.

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.