Ohio College2Careers Creates Opportunity and Encouragement for Students with Disabilities at Kent State
When human development and family studies major Katherine Schroeder heard about the Ohio College2Careers program coming to Kent State University for her first semester of sophomore year, Schroeder was determined to learn about what the program could offer her. After applying, Schroeder has been given the support she had been looking for in her college experience.
At the start of fall semester, Kent State implemented the Ohio College2Careers under the Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) agency.
OOD is the state agency that provides access to employment opportunities, disability determinations and a greater sense of independence for Ohioans with disabilities.
The Ohio College2Careers program is specifically designed for students in Ohio with disabilities to have support and resources available to complete their college education and continue on in the job market.
The on-campus program is led by a vocational rehabilitation counselor who assists students interested in the program.
“I provide career exploration and counseling, assistive technology, resume and interview preparation, etc.,” said Jessica Vass, vocational rehabilitation counselor with Ohio College2Careers at Kent State. “Services vary for each student based on need.”
Due to the broad range of disabilities, especially on a college campus as large as Kent State, the vocational rehabilitation counselor has an all encompassing job where a variety of needs must be met.
“There’s a lot of nit-picky things that you wouldn’t necessarily know about,” Schroeder said. “Their job at Ohio College2Careers is to find those minor things that really matter and they end up determining a lot for us.”
These needs include finding adequate transportation on campus, providing text-to-speech equipment, networking with organizations and companies who can accommodate people with disabilities and more.
Kent State is one of 15 public colleges and universities in the state with this program in place.
Ohio College2Careers works alongside Student Accessibility Services, a service through Kent State that provides students with the accommodations they need to be successful inside and outside of the classroom. They also work alongside Career Exploration and Development, another service through Kent State that provides students access to a variety of resources for making informed career decisions and planning their employment search.
The significant population of students with disabilities on Kent State’s campus was what led Ohio College2Careers to start the program here. Vass said that OOD’s research indicates that 14.4% of the student population identifies with a disability.
“We have one of the best accommodation programs that I know of,” Schroeder said. “We are very lucky at Kent State, and I want students to know that.”
Schroeder was unaware of the opportunities present to her at Kent State until a friend suggested she look into the Ohio College2Careers program. As someone who is independent and doesn’t let her disability get in her way, Shroeder said it was difficult to ask for help, but it is worth it.
“I didn’t want to come into college needing this or that because of my disability,” Schroeder said. “A lot of disabilities aren’t always visible. I walk around and no one knows what I have, but that makes it even more difficult to ask for help. But asking for help has opened up a lot of opportunities and has created a stress-free environment for me.”
Schroeder explains how the opportunities presented to her through her time with Ohio College2Careers has impacted her experience as a college student.
“It helps students without disabilities too, it makes those with disabilities seem more normal and encompassed,” Schroeder said. “It’s a level of not having to feel ashamed to ask for help, and it gives you the chance to have the same opportunities other students have.”
Ohio College2Careers aims to emphasize the sense of individuality and support the OOD agency puts in place for people with disabilities.
“I look forward to helping students with disabilities reach their goals and watch them succeed,” Vass said.
The Ohio College2Careers at Kent State is located in Student Accessibility Services Office located within the University Library in Suite 100. Vass also spends two days per week at Career Exploration and Development in Suite 261 within the Schwartz Center. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 330-672-8032.