Disability Mentoring Day (DMD) was established in 1999 as a nationwide effort to promote career development for students with disabilities through hands-on career exploration. In Rockford, local organizations team up each year with Rock Valley College in order to invite students and adults with disabilities to a day long event of employment-related activities.
This was my second year volunteering at the event as part of the Goodwill staff. Prior to the event we spent weeks preparing and inviting employers and participants alike; it was nice to see it all come together. In the morning local employers such as Aerotek, Rockford Park District, Hamilton Sundstrand, Alpine Inn, Circles of Learning and more, performed several rounds of interviews with adults with disabilities and gave them feedback on their performance.
In the afternoon approximately 100 high school students from the Rockford Public School District Special Education Programs attended. Part of the event was a fashion show, with WREX evening anchor Katie Nilsson hosting as Goodwill staff and high school students demonstrated appropriate and inappropriate interview attire. I myself got to participate and had a lot of fun walking the runway for the first time sporting a fake tattoo, nose ring and long earrings to show how an appropriate pant suit can become inappropriate when paired with the wrong accessories or revealing body art. Other outfits ranged from nice skirts and blouses to ratty jeans and t-shirts in a fashion display of do’s and don’ts for the many onlookers.
The day ended with speed interviewing, learning how to fill out applications and an employer panel discussion on job readiness, making a first impression and how to dress for interviews. Overall it was a busy day, filled with great opportunities for participants and students to meet employers and learn new skills that they can take into their job search. It also allowed volunteers to contribute in a positive way to Disability Awareness and be a mentor to those who need it most which is what it’s really about. At the end of the day it wasn’t the participants impact that I remembered the most but what the employers took away; so many of them came up to me and other staff working the event and thanked us for giving them the opportunity to get involved.