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DCPS Announces Innovative Internship Program for Students with Disabilities

Monday, January 14, 2013
Program called Competitive Employment Opportunities (CEO)

Contact: Melissa Salmanowitz | 202-535-1096

Today DCPS will launch a new career-focused mentoring program for high school students with disabilities. The program, called Competitive Employment Opportunities (CEO), will connect high school students with disabilities to professional mentors who work in a range of competitive occupations. The CEO program will focus on providing students with career exploration, soft skills training, goal-setting support and paid internship opportunities. Approximately 20 students will participate in the program.

“This new program will engage our students with disabilities in a new way, and provide them with opportunities for real on-the-ground job experience. This program also supports our strategic goals by engaging students through interesting opportunities and preparing them for college and career.  I’m very excited to see this program in action.”

“The CEO Program is integral to ensuring not only that our students with disabilities get the best education possible, but also that they are prepared to compete in the new economy that is emerging in the District of Columbia,” Mayor Vincent C. Gray said. “Every child in D.C. deserves the chance to learn the skills they need to enjoy a life of working to support themselves and contributing to their community.”

The CEO Program consists of weekly professional development classes, guided email correspondence with mentors and a career-focused final project. Upon completion of the program, students will have the opportunity to obtain summer employment through paid internships at their assigned mentor agency. Current agency partners include NASA, The Architect of the Capitol, The HSC Foundation, Northrop Grumman, Socially Ahead, Capital Area Asset Builders, and The Advisory Board Company.

“Students with disabilities can succeed at the highest levels when supported in the right way,” said Dr. Nathaniel Beers, Chief in the Office of Special Education at DCPS. “We’re actively working to bring these students back to DCPS and to give them all the right tools to become successful, thriving adults. The CEO program will connect our students with meaningful experiences, strong mentors and skills that they can use for future employment.”

DCPS students were informed about the program by school staff and were encouraged to apply online. The application process included an online application as well as an in-person interview.  The level of student interest was very high, as over seventy students applied for only twenty slots.

DCPS will provide a stipend of $8.00 an hour to enrolled students throughout the duration of their professional development training and summer employment.  DCPS will also encourage students to open savings accounts through the Capital Area Asset Builder’s Individualized Development Account Program. This will allow students to obtain 1:1 matched savings on earned income for up to $1,000.00 to be used for postsecondary opportunities. 

The CEO Program design is based on best practices identified by The Institute for Educational Leadership National Collaboration on Workforce and Disability or Youth. DCPS will gauge the success of the program based on increased student confidence and increased ability for students to display skills such as professionalism, communication, time management, budgeting and problem solving. The success of the program will also be gauged based on higher rates of student employment and students clearly defining postsecondary goals and next steps.