After graduating from high school, Jesse's Youth Transition Program (YTP) transition specialist encouraged him to follow his passion and continue his training by enrolling in cosmetology school. Jesse worked as an independent contractor at a local salon and established a regular clientele before relocating to Florida where he continues his cosmetology at a local salon. Jesse attributes much of his success to his team, part of the nationally recognized YTP program, who helped him every step of the way by advocating for him and helping him find his path when he wasn't sure how.
Keith Ozols, Youth Transition Program Statewide Coordinator, describes YTP as "a connection bringing together talents and abilities to attain goals for young people who are making very adult decisions". YTP, a part of Oregon Vocational Rehabilitation Services (OVRS), is designed to prepare youth with disabilities for employment or career-related education and training. "There is no other program functioning this way" says Keith "with such individual focus yet on such a broad scope. It truly changes lives across our state". True collaboration and partnership come together to keep the focus on guiding youth down the path to independence.
The dedication Keith speaks of is evident when looking at program outcomes. YTP is currently operating in more than 115 high schools and serving nearly 1,500 young people living with disabilities in communities throughout Oregon. During the 2009 – 11 biennium, 86 percent of students received a high school completion document while 78 percent were engaged in employment or enrolled in post-secondary training after exiting the program.
With goals to both improve post school transition outcomes for youth with disabilities and to increase capacity and create systems change for schools and other agencies, YTP is making a difference in our communities throughout Oregon. While OVRS administers the program itself, Oregon Department of Education, and University of Oregon and other local school districts all partner together to keep the training and technical assistance moving forward.
Not only has YTP achieved impressive outcomes and results for youth across Oregon, it is also the first recipient of the University of Oregon's College of Education Career Award for Research and Outreach for sustaining that program excellence over time. YTP also received a Best Practices Award from the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs in 2010.
Each student works with a transition specialist, vocational rehabilitation counselor, and a technical assistance provider. This team works together toward goals aligned with the strengths, abilities and interests of each individual. Finding satisfying employment is the ultimate goal, but YTP takes it further by working to ensure the employment matches the individual. Long term outcomes include follow ups within the first year to measure progress and engagement and assist with guidance as needed. Keith shares his experience working with fellow staff, "I've never worked with a more dedicated group of people with such passion for the work they do."