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Mcdhh_heidiBy Massachusetts Commissioner for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Heidi L. Reed

 The Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (MCDHH) is committed to supporting deaf and hard of hearing residents look for, and transition to, gainful employment so that they may live and work independently. Last summer alone, more the agency place more than 70 deaf and hard of hearing students in internships through the Transition to Work Program, which is administered by MCDHH in close collaboration with the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC). The program has created opportunities for young people with hearing impairments to take pivotal steps towards self-sufficiency and independence through employment.  One of the fundamental goals of this program is to prepare students for their next year of school, help them identify their career goals and provide  the work experience necessary for competitively entering  the labor force  once they have graduated from high school or college. 

As one student reflected, Working at the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing for six weeks was much appreciated. I enjoyed working with the staff in the Referral Department. They were great and communicated well. I realized my role of being a good worker as they asked me to work with them again next year. This job was a good match.”

Student interns within the MCDHH internship program came from across the state; their backgrounds varied in many ways and their ages ranged from freshmen in high school to seniors in college.  Similarly, their internships varied;  some worked in state agencies, others in non-profit organizations and private companies. The internship responsibilities varied from accounting to early child development.  They participated in an orientation session, learning lunch, and workshops on professionalism, resume writing, searching for jobs, and presentations from Deaf professionals.  The interns who were placed in summer positions at MCDHH ‘s Boston headquarters assisted with projects in our Business Office and Referral Department.

“Without this opportunity, I may not have had any knowledge or skills outside the world [of school]. I may consider beginning my career in the MBTA after my graduation from Gallaudet University. Thank you, MCDHH for giving me an opportunity to grab this wonderful epic experience through the summer time,” – said one summer intern for the MBTA.

The success of the Transition to Work program relies on committed employers participating as partners to provide challenging and demanding work experiences for the interns.  State agencies, private sector companies, schools, colleges and universities were among the employers who partnered with MCDHH last summer.  And, at the end of the summer, employers that participated reported an extremely high level of satisfaction and appreciation for the interns’ skills and hard work. One supervisor, Mike Festa,  a senior technical project manager in the Department of System-Wide Accessibility at the MBTA, nominated the program for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s (MassDOT) Community Recognition Award based on his experience as a supervisor.   Because of Mike’s efforts, on Monday, October 17, MCDHH Deputy Commissioner Patricia Ford accepted a Community Recognition Award on behalf of the agency’s Transition to Work Program. In addition to Deputy Commissioner Ford, Omar Olazabal, one of the program coordinators who helped make the program a success last summer, attended. The award was presented by MassDOTas part of a state-sponsored Disability Awareness Month event designed to educate and inform the general public, as well as recognize the public’s role in supporting individuals who are living with disabilities and are part of the Commonwealth’s diverse workforce. MCDHH’s collaboration with MRC, MassDOT, and multiple other key players moves our ability to builda stronger workforce for Massachusetts, which benefits all of us.

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