By Amanda Joerndt
Youngstown State University’s disabled student population now has a resource on campus that will help create a path for job success during and after their college careers.
Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities established Ohio’s College2Careers program to work with various universities across the state, providing career guidance for students with physical, mental, cognitive or learning issues.
Fifteen colleges and universities across Ohio are given funds through the program, ensuring “students with disabilities have the support they need to complete their degree and/or credential, earn higher wages and meet the demands of tomorrow’s labor market.”
Bill Koch, vocational rehabilitation counselor for Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, will serve as YSU’s disabilities counselor and work with students who cross paths with the Disability Services in Kilcawley Center.
Koch said the program has “underrepresented college students” in the past.
“An effort was made in the state budget to have counselors immersed in universities around the state so we would be able to do a better job serving college students,” Koch said.
He said YSU’s Disability Services has worked efficiently to transfer certain cases to his office.
“Anybody that [Gina McGranahan] sees, she has been really helping in having them walk 3 feet over to this office to get their case opened up,” Koch said. “Somebody doesn’t have to be open with the Disability Services office to see me, but a lot of my referrals have come that way.”
Ohio’s College2Careers program allows students to receive “vocational testing, job shadowing and community based assessment.”
According to Koch, the type of students he assists are vasied.
“A lot of times people don’t usually label themselves as disabled but they end up qualifying for our services,” Koch said. “We would start by doing an intake to get to know each other and determine eligibility for services.”
Gina McGranahan, assistant director of Disability Services, said the office has been working with Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities for a few years.
“Their main office is in downtown Youngstown and we have referred students down there, but sometimes they don’t like to go downtown,” McGranahan said. “The state came up with a program so they would embed a counselor here.”
She said Koch helps students become more marketable in their industry.
“He helps the students when they are looking for internships and find a job,” McGranahan said. “I work with in the classroom kind of accommodations and he works for when you need to go to work type of accommodations.”
According to McGranahan, she hopes more students will work with Koch on a regular basis.
“The more traffic he gets, the better for them and the better for us because if they need accommodations in the classroom, then they can get those too. While they’re here, we can send students back and forth,” she said.
Mac Pomeroy, a sophomore English major, uses the cart service to go to and from classes and the testing services center at YSU to help her due to her “extreme muscular weakness” condition.
Pomeroy said although she has numerous disabilities, YSU has been accommodating in helping her have a successful college education.
“It’s been such a huge weight lifted off of my chest to have these services available and to know that I will be able to get through my education this time without something like this getting in my way,” she said.
According to Pomeroy, steps are being taken to ensure students living with a disability are receiving the correct care.
“I think this is a huge step forward. It’s really just YSU acknowledging the fact that it does have disabled students and that it does have a diverse population,” she said. “You need to help prepare them to have an actual future, so this is a really big step in helping make sure these disabled students have a successful future.”
Editor’s Note: Mac Pomeroy is a Jambar columnist.