In 1992, the Department of Developmental Services (formerly known as the Department of Mental Retardation) began an experimental 8 week summer program called the Urban Youth Collaborative Program. The UYCP is based on four principles:
- Expand the social and recreational activities for people with intellectual disabilities
- Foster an interest of students of multi-cultural backgrounds, who reside in urban areas, to work in the human service field
- Develop a collaboration with high schools, colleges, and human service providers
- Train and possibly provide a talented pool of multi-cultural individuals who can meet the needs of an ever increasing multi-cultural population in the human service field.
Twenty students were recruited from a local Boston high school to participate in this program. The students did not have any previous human service experience or any previous experience working with those with an intellectual disability. A local human service provider was recruited to train the students in daily life activities, CPR, human rights, and a history of services to those persons with intellectual disabilities. After two weeks of training, the students were placed in community settings to work directly with persons with intellectual disabilities.
Today, after a successful twenty-two years, the UYCP has collaborated with 19 agencies from across the Commonwealth to work with over 230 students, recruited from across Massachusetts. Since its inception, nearly 3,500 interns have taken part in the UYCP, with almost half continuing on to pursue careers in human services. In keeping with the Patrick Administration’s ongoing commitment to promoting dignity and independence for people with disabilities, the UYCP also addresses a key focus of the administration of providing jobs in the Commonwealth, particularly to the young workforce.
On August 8th, officials from the Governor Patrick’s Administration honored the participants of the Urban Youth Collaborative Program (UYCP) at a State House awards ceremony. They were awarded and thanked for their commitment and dedication to the care of individuals with developmental disabilities at community and state-operated programs across the Commonwealth. In addition, one intern from each program had the opportunity to speak about their experiences.
As Commissioner of DDS, I am very proud of the Urban Youth Collaborative Program and its impact on both the student interns who participate in it and the individuals we support and serve. We at DDS hope that the dedication of these young adults will carry on throughout their careers, and they will consider working with people with intellectual disabilities.