Northwest Region Job-A-Palooza Events

By Willie Dawkins-Miller

The Arc Big Bend Tallahassee, The Arc of The Bay/St. Andrew Bay Center, and Jackson County Arc, Inc. all hosted a Job-A-Palooza, a job fair for high school and transition-age students with intellectual and developmental differences to demonstrate their unique abilities while exploring various career interests. Students with disabilities had the opportunity to experience and learn skills needed for various jobs, as well as discover the plethora of job opportunities in the community. About 25-50 youth age 16-21 and more than 50 peer mentors participated in the inaugural Job-A-Palooza. The event was sponsored by the Arc of Florida and funded by a grant from the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.

The event featured over 75 Northwest regional employers. Employers included attorneys, telecommunication companies, hotels, restaurants, grocery stores, flower shops, retail stores, warehouse divisions, pet grooming shops, credit unions, banks, home supply companies, hardware stores, and companies who require assistance in office administration. The Agency for Person with Disabilities set up a business station focusing on office assistant work. Students assembled die-cut folders with various information brochures and business cards.

The event was logistically facilitated in each county. After each student learned about jobs available at the Job-A-Palooza, they were paired with mentoring volunteers from local high schools who helped the students decide which jobs they would most enjoy. Once the student selected five business stations to visit, they were given an opportunity to practice a task at each employer’s station.

The goals of the job fairs were to showcase to the business community that individuals with disabilities have significant potential as employees, show individuals with disabilities that their skill set is in demand, and allow peer mentors to learn more about people with disabilities and how to appreciate having them on their team.

The energy of the event was unprecedented and will continue to open doors to persons with different abilities, while empowering all to be a part of America’s workforce.

The Agency for Person with Disabilities set up a business station focusing on office assistant work.