Lower Rio Grande Workforce Development Board — Project RISE

Project RISE

Statewide Need
National studies continue to indicate that people with disabilities have higher levels of unemployment than people without. In some cases, self-employment can solve certain problems associated with unemployment and/or insufficient income; however, starting a small business or micro-enterprise can be difficult, especially for people who do not have the necessary capital or the borrowing power. Furthermore, working for oneself can result in isolation or difficulty finding ongoing social support. Other existing employment models have been successful in enabling many people with developmental disabilities (DD) to be employed successfully.

Project Goal
Increase employment opportunities for special education students in their last year of high school in Hidalgo, Starr and Willacy counties.

Project Summary
Project RISE (Regional Initiative for Supported Employment) employed a student-driven approach and leveraged educational, postsecondary school and Workforce One-Stop Center resources in order to minimize costs during the transition process for students with DD. The project developed community relationships and utilized community resources, which resulted in competitive employment for participants and increased awareness of employment opportunities for individuals with DD. A large percentage of participants who intended to find direct employment after high school opted instead to enroll and further expand their education. The project built sustainable partnerships with special education departments, local universities and colleges, and other organizations.

Project RISE implemented an assessment form to assure student participants’ career and postsecondary school interests were met. This form was used during the recruitment phase of the project and was compared to the Vocational Assessment received by Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) to analyze goals, abilities and limitations, and to ensure students were on their career paths of choice, while maintaining a realistic and successful outcome.

Trainings were held within One-Stop Centers where students learned about topics related to the project and were introduced to resources available at all One-Stop Centers. All students were registered in Work-In-Texas, received information about the purpose and benefits of the program, and were provided with explanations about the support and resources that Workforce Solution can provide during vocation/career exploration. In addition to the regularly scheduled trainings, students were given hands-on demonstrations about assistive technology available in the Edinburg One-Stop Center. The demonstrator further evaluated the students’ needs and made recommendations to DARS counselors for the purchase of appropriate assistive devices.

Other activities that supported the students’ career interests and abilities to obtain experience included Disability Mentoring Days, a Summer Youth Program, Job Fairs, annual University and College campus tours, and other community events.

  • Impact
    • An average of 32 students participated in the project at all times
    • Participants gained competitive employment or actualized education goals
    • Participants gained knowledge of supports, resources and technology available to them through Workforce One-Stop Centers
    • Workforce One-Stop Center staff gained experience and extensive training on disability etiquette and the needs of and resources available for individuals with DD
    • Workforce One-Stop Centers have seen a large increase in the number of individuals with DD they served

Project Period
Sep 2007 – Aug 2010

3101 W. Business 83
McAllen, TX 78501

Geographic Reach
Hidalgo, Starr and Willacy counties