May 28, 2019, Training on Career Exploration Resources at the Symposium on Supported Education, with New York City's Blueprint for Education

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New York City's symposium on supported education brought together practitioners from New York City and around the world, as far away as Holland, to share practices and resources on supporting adults with mental illness to go to college, job training programs and participate in meaningful work. 

Teachers, social workers, job developers and students held powerful conversations on what it takes to design educational programs so they truly serve and benefit people with mental illness. 

I presented on Career Exploration Resources, in particular, career databases, such as Mynextmove, where users can read about hundreds of careers, the NYSED/CUNY CareerKits, lessons teachers and counselors can use to help students explore careers while at the same time advancing their reading, writing and math skills, and career data resources, such as the NYC Labor Market Information Service

We talked about how to use these resources to put job-seekers in the driver's seat of their own career research, enabling them to find their own best fit pathway. We looked at the sectors and careers that are welcoming to people with mental illness and those formerly incarcerated, and how they can describe challenging past experiences as an asset to employers. 

One of the sentiments that really struck me was the widely held belief that "school makes you sicker." The often stressful environment of college, dealing with large bureaucracies to register for classes, pay bills, and navigate clubs and other extra-curricular opportunities often exacerbates symptoms of mental illness, leading to isolation, depression or other conditions, leaving many students with no choice but to withdraw to attend to their health. 

"School makes you sicker."

- Commonly held belief among people with mental illness

Educational and training programs can do so much more to change this belief and reality, to serve students with disabilities better and strengthen the workforce becasue of their participation in it.