Local organization preparing teens with disabilities for life after high school

Local News

Getting a job is daunting for many teens fresh out of high school, and for some young people with disabilities it may even seem impossible. The Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy hosts special workshops around the state to help get those teens ready for careers.  

Gracie Johnson was one of the students at a recent KYEA workshop in Topeka. She has just seven months left in high school. A panel of professionals who spoke at the workshop are giving her confidence to meet the challenges of her disability by sharing their own success.

“It tells us we can do it,” Johnson said. “[They’re saying] we did it; you can do it too. And I think that’s super important.” 

Another student, Alicia Moore, said the panel showed her there are others who know what it’s like to navigate jobs and school with a disability.

“You need to find them, or you need to hear somebody else’s story to understand that you’re not the only one,” she said. 

The Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy hosts these workshops to get kids ready to succeed and contribute to the workforce. Program coordinator Carrie Greenwood said it’s a part of the organization’s focus to empower kids with disabilities. 

“We do a lot of presentations in the community where we talk about self-esteem and advocating for yourselves, so this is just one little piece of who KYEA is,” Greenwood said. 

The workshops are teaching the fundamentals every jobseeker needs, like how to give a good hand shake or answer interview questions.

Above all that, Gracie said it’s about learning how to show people she can get the job done.

“Not expecting others to have to help us, it’s saying we can do this, we got this let us do our thing,” she said.

Nearly 500 young people have participated in programs like the job workshop since 2001. The Kansas Youth Empowerment Academy educates and mentors young people from ages 5 to 25. The programs are free to all the participants.

You can learn more about KYEA by clicking here.

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