Edmonds College received a $200,000 renewal of a grant that will help fund the college’s Pursuit Lab, which provides college access and services that include job-readiness training for students aged 16-21 with documented disabilities. The grant also expanded the program’s reach into all of Snohomish and King counties.
The grant is part of a contract awarded by the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services’ (DSHS) Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) and runs through Sept. 30, 2023.
Besides workplace readiness training, the Pursuit Lab is a free Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) program that promotes self-advocacy instruction and work-based learning opportunities for its students. Edmonds College is one of several Pre-ETS contractors in Washington state. In partnership with DVR, Pursuit’s workplace readiness course seeks to help students discover strengths, prepare for jobs, and reach educational goals. The program can also help place students into internships.
According to a 2021 Bureau of Labor Services study, 16- to 24-year-olds with disabilities are almost twice as likely to be unemployed versus those without disabilities. That is a divide that programs like Pursuit aim to narrow.
“We are committed to closing the unemployment gap between people with disabilities and the general population,” said Edmonds College President Dr. Amit B. Singh. “Our dedicated staff has positively impacted the lives of many of our students enrolled in the Pursuit Lab over the last four years. The renewal of the DVR grant will ensure we can continue this growth and positively affect the community.”
For the last two years, only students in the Edmonds and Mukilteo school districts were served by the program. In January, the coverage expanded to the Everett school district. Now, the coverage area for the Pursuit program extends to all of Snohomish and King counties. The grant will allow the program to add more instructors and enable the staff to go to high school campuses and offer workshops, which is vital in reaching more students seeking assistance.
“Our program is now able to service two of the largest populations of students in the state,” said Director of Pursuit Diana George. “We will be able to equip more students and help them discover their strengths, build a sense of belonging, learn how to self-advocate, participate in peer mentoring, and prepare them with more soft skills.”
Each Pursuit Lab session lasts five weeks, with the first starting on Oct. 17 and running through Nov. 17. Classes meet four times weekly, and instruction is available online and in person. The Pursuit Lab expands to two sessions each quarter in winter and spring.
“What distinguishes us is that students receive between 30-80 hours of services,” George said. “These five-week intensives can launch students into work at any time of the year because we have 13 sessions offered virtually and in person throughout the school year and summers. When students walk away from our classes, the number one comment is that they have greater confidence to interview and pursue their career goals.”
Making eligible students aware of the time and services that Pursuit can provide is a high priority. George points out a Yale study that reported 94% of high school students with learning disabilities got some kind of help, while just 17% received support once they attended college.
“There is a gap in setting up students with disabilities for success when the support offered in high school is unavailable or unknown to them in a college setting,” she said. “Our program emphasizes helping students build self-advocacy, which is essential to students’ success when facing post-secondary unknowns.”
For general information or to learn more about enrollment, visit edmonds.edu/pursuit.