Washington, D.C. (October 26, 2011) -- Surrounded by healthcare, labor, community and military leaders, The National Youth Transitions Center (NYTC) was launched and officially opened its doors today, making needed services available to hundreds of young adults across the country. Developed by the HSC Foundation, the NYTC will, for the first time, bring multiple organizations together in one space to provide much-needed transition services, research, public policy, and wounded veterans’ services to youth. The center will provide assistance for youth with physical, sensory, intellectual, and emotional disabilities like autism, and to veterans making that difficult transition from life on the battlefield to life as a civilian.
“The National Youth Transitions Center will enhance the ability of young people and veterans to re-enter the workforce, participate in and contribute to community life, and to become productive members of society. This vitally-needed center will bring together experts from across the country to ensure that our youth and young veterans with disabilities are included in all aspects of our communities,” said Thomas Chapman, President and CEO of the HSC Foundation. “We’re making sure a neglected youth population doesn’t fall through the cracks as they enter adulthood.”
More than 40 organizations (see attached list) are collaborating with the center and will see youth and young veterans with disabilities (ages 14-26) to help get them ready for higher education and the workforce. Twelve of these organizations are housed in the new, state of the art, seven-story facility that is located in northwest Washington D.C. near Georgetown University’s campus. It will be equipped with the latest technology to provide services not only to youth at the center, but across the nation.
Some of the services they will provide include:
• Personal development and leadership training
• School¬-to-¬work readiness training
• Family education and support
• Work based learning (mentoring and internships)
• Career counseling and exploration
Ari Ne’eman is the president and co-founder of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), one of the organizations collaborating with the National Youth Transition Center. Ne’eman also sits on the National Council on Disability—a position he has held since being confirmed by the Senate last year. He says a center like this is long overdue.
"The National Youth Transitions Center is an extraordinary project that ASAN is proud to be a part of. By bringing together disability organizations from across the spectrum of our broad community, we can make progress we never could manage on our own. We're stronger together - and the NYTC is making that happen,” Ne’eman says.
For young people with disabilities that do not have assistance, the outcome is grim, as statistics have shown:
Youth with disabilities are more than twice as likely as their peers to drop out of school, and they will face much higher unemployment rates.
The adjudication rate of youth with disabilities is four times higher than for youth without disabilities.
Youth with disabilities are three times more likely to live in poverty as adults than their peers without disabilities.
In addition to serving youth with disabilities, the center will also serve young veterans who are making that difficult transition from life on the battlefield to life in an office or college environment (especially when that transition brings with it new mental and physical disabilities).
Veterans like 27-year old Ryan Lamke understand the need for a center like this all too well. Lamke joined the Marine Corps after the September 11, 2001, attacks. He served for four years doing two deployments in Iraq. After being blown up by several roadside bombs and a grenade, Lamke suffered multiple brain and orthopedic injuries forcing him to resign from active duty. He found going back to civilian life was more difficult than he ever imagined.
“When you get out of the military it’s as if you have to go through a whole new boot camp. When you enroll in basic training, you’re taught how to be a solider, when you get out you need to be taught the same things, but most people don’t understand that,” Lamke says. “When I came back I had to learn not only how to deal with the people I had left behind I had to learn simple things like budgeting, paying bills, and most importantly understanding how to trust people in the civilian world again. That coupled with my injuries made life incredibly complicated,” Lamke says.
Until now, there has not been a comprehensive facility that really offered a safe haven for young veterans to talk about their problems and experiences. The NYTC is partnering with The Student Veterans of America not only to give them that place, but also to be surrounded by the support of young counselors and employment advisors who have faced and overcome the same issues as the men and women they’re helping.
“The National Youth Transition Center is about employment, education, freedom, and independence and you can’t have independence without an education or a job. We’re giving them the tools to help them build a path to independence and reach their highest potential,” Chapman said.
The partners at the center envision a multitude of beneﬁts that include:
• For youth and veterans with disabilities: Readiness for jobs or college, eased reentry into their communities as well as conﬁdence and skill
• For employers: Outstanding, capable employees ready to help reach goals and fulﬁll missions
• For the disabilities and transitions ﬁelds: New thinking and learning from research, evaluation, advocacy, and models of service
• For the nation: A valuable human resource for the future
The official opening ceremony was attended by several members of Congress including Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.) and Rep. Gregg Harper (MI), as well as Sue Swenson, Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Department of Education, Ortiz, Jr., Deputy Assistant Secretary of Veterans’ Employment and Training Services for the Department of Labor, and Gen. Gale Pollock.
About The HSC Foundation
The HSC Foundation (HSCF) is dedicated to improving access to services for individuals who face social and health care barriers due to disability and chronic illness. It puts a particular emphasis on youth, especially those who are transitioning to adulthood. Health Services for Children with Special Needs, Inc., The HSC Pediatric Center, HSC Home Care, LLC and Special Needs Consulting Services are subsidiary organizations of the Foundation. To learn more about The HSC Foundation, visit http://www.hscfoundation.org.