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G_commissioner_ehowe By DDS Commissioner Elin Howe

Through the UYCP, I learned that human services promote each unique individual. We as staff in this field can bring out the qualities and abilities in all of the individuals we support. Through that, we can all live a life of beauty through diversity. – Jeff Hammond, 18, from Brockton

Today officials from the Patrick-Murray Administration honored participants in the 2011 Urban Youth Collaborative Program (UYCP) at an awards ceremony at the State House. Youth were awarded and thanked for their commitment and dedication to caring for individuals with developmental disabilities at state-operated and community programs throughout the state. Interns from each program shared their experiences.

In 1992 the Department of Developmental Services (formerly known as the Department of Mental Retardation) began an eight-week summer pilot program called the Urban Youth Collaborative Program (UYCP). The program’s creation is based on four principles: 1) expand the social and recreational activities for people with intellectual disabilities 2) foster an interest among a diverse group of high-school students who reside in urban areas to work in the human service field 3) develop an ongoing collaboration with different high schools, colleges and human service providers throughout the state and 4) train and potentially provide a talented, multi-cultural pool of individuals who can meet the needs of an increasingly diverse population in human services.

One 2011 participant, Jeff Hammond, interned at DDS provider Road to Responsibility and reflected on his experience:

After participating in this year’s Urban Youth Collaborative, my perspective about people with disabilities has changed dramatically. Before UYCP, there were only a small number of individuals who I had been exposed to with disabilities, so there was a lot I didn’t understand. I had only focused on what the individual couldn’t do. Road to Responsibility promotes the concept that each individual is that; an individual and although there are limitations to what each person can do there are many things that each person can do.

Though I have had many great moments this summer with the UYCP, the ones that stand out the most is time spent with Carl. Carl is an individual who can simply walk into a room and instantly brighten it with his huge smile, and his many requests for lunch — I saw myself in him on that one! Every day Carl has shown me that there is no limit to what he can learn. The fact that he knew sign language (something I have tried to learn but still only know how to sign water and music), made me think about his abilities … not disabilities. 

What I took from this experience was the strengthening of the idea that everyone is different in their own way. I gathered this from the individuals and also from the staff at my program site. I saw that everyone had a unique quality about them. Whether it was Tommy, who played piano but REQUIRED a cushioned chair for seating; to Ricky who could mirror anything you did perfectly; I saw that no one was the same. I also saw how differently staff members dealt with every day situations, which helped me develop my own workplace skills.

I definitely see myself in human services because to know that I’m in a field that is devoted to increasing the quality of life for individuals with disabilities (or rather, abilities) is so rewarding.

Now that UYCP has ended for me I can honestly say that there was a change in myself. I met wonderful people who helped change my life. I can walk into a workplace with confidence. Most importantly, I am now a firm believer that each individual is unique to the world. We are all different with our own abilities and skills. I understand that this is something that is taught to us at a young age but it takes living to truly believe.

Through the UYCP, I learned that human services promote each unique individual. We as staff in this field can bring out the qualities and abilities in all of the individuals we support. Through that, we can all live a life of beauty through diversity.

-          Jeffrey Hammond, UYCP participant

Twenty successful years later, this summer the UYCP collaborated with 19 program sites from across the Commonwealth to work with 194 students who were recruited from 85 towns. Since its inception, nearly 3,000 interns have participated in the UYCP, with almost half continuing on to pursue careers in human services. In keeping with the Patrick-Murray Administration’s ongoing commitment to promoting dignity and independence for people with disabilities, the UYCP also addresses a key focus of the administration by providing jobs in this arena, particularly to this young workforce.

As Commissioner of DDS, I am very proud of the UYCP and its impact on both the student participants and the individuals we support and serve.  We at DDS hope that the dedication of young adults like Jeff will carry on throughout their careers, and they will consider working with people with intellectual disabilities.

UYCP State House Event internsCommissioner Howe with 2011 UYC participants at today's awards ceremony at the
State House

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