Iowa's Pipeline Programs Promote Self-Advocacy, STEM and More

October 15, 2021

Iowa's UCEDD has continued to focus on pipeline activities to develop future leaders, and to promote diversity and inclusion as we build capacity in our state. This summer, we hosted two pipeline projects, which we expect to continue as annual activities in Iowa.

With funding from the Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council, and working in partnership with the Iowa Department of Human Rights, our UCEDD hosted the second annual summer Youth Leadership Academy (YLA). With lessons learned from last year's inaugural program, the UCEDD ran the YLA virtually again, due to COVID-19. This year's program doubled in size, and expanded to two weeks.

Trainers presented a new theme for participants each day, which included goal setting, self-determination, civic engagement, leadership, mentoring and social networking. Activities such as participant polls and virtual voting promoted engagement, along with the use of "thumbs up" and other virtual tools. At the end of each session, participants set a goal, and reported on their progress the following day. The Youth Leadership Academy concluded with a panel of young leaders with disabilities, sharing their experiences and wisdom with participants, and a virtual graduation. Self-advocacy coordinator for Iowa's UCEDD, Edward Esbeck, returned as a trainer and panel member.

Iowa's UCEDD began the summer, kicking off its first National Summer Transportation Institute (NSTI). Eight students attended this inaugural STEM summer camp for two weeks of virtual activities to learn about careers in transportation and industry, and to develop leadership skills and college readiness. Topics ranged from civil and environmental engineering, to electronics for air transportation, to locks, dams and ship piloting, to the Army Corps of Engineers, with experts on all topics presenting to the campers.

The NSTI program was offered in collaboration with the Civil Rights Bureau of the Iowa Department of Transportation, and funded through the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, which allowed campers to attend at no cost. Family members joined campers for the final activity, a virtual graduation ceremony. All campers received a stipend for completing the program.

"These pipeline programs support our mission of building a diverse and inclusive staff of the best people at the Center for Disabilities and Development (Iowa's UCEDD)," says Derrick Willis, UCEDD director.

Learn more about Iowa's Youth Leadership Academy from Mike Hoenig at [email protected].

Learn more about the Iowa National Summer Transportation Institute from Patti Bahr at [email protected].

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