Interview with Kelly Privitt, AbilityFirst's College to Career Program
June 25, 2020
Dr. Gwen: Hi, friends. Welcome to my channel. My name is Dr. Gwen, and I'm a clinical psychologist who's been obsessed with empowering disabled teens and adults to live their absolute best lives. In this video, I'm interviewing Kelly Privitt, Director of AbilityFirst’s College to Career Program. We'll get into what this program is and who its best for. Kelly shares a personal experience that brings hope and make sure to stay to the end where Kelly and I talk about the skill that she believes empowers people the most. If you want to skip around, the timestamps are in the description below. All right, let's get to it.
Dr. Gwen: Hi, Kelly.
Kelly: Hey, how are you doing?
Dr. Gwen: Thank you so much for being here.
Kelly: You're welcome, you're welcome.
Dr. Gwen: Same here, I'm good. Thank you. So, why don't we start with telling us about yourself?
Kelly: A little bit about myself. So, I'm Kelly Privitt, I work with AbilityFirst. I've been with AbilityFirst for about 25 years. I've done--I started as a volunteer three years prior to that, running a Girl Scout troop for them in Claremont and I just thought this is a place I want to work. So, after getting my BA in Behavioral Science, I applied for a job probably three weeks after that to be their program supervisor and have just been working with the agency and through the agency.
With AbilityFirst, I was a program supervisor for a few years, worked for their headquarters, doing quality assurance. I think that's really my strength is building systems to help people be able to navigate regulations and rules. Then I went over to their resident camp in Malibu. So, Camp Joan Mier, I did that for about eight summers, which is incredible training for behaviors because you get to meet your campers. Day one, some you know, some you don't, and you've got seven days to bond, make a difference in their lives, and learn how to help them be successful.
When I left there, I went back to headquarters and ran all of their licensed programs. So, group homes, adult programs, children's programs. And then, from there, moved over to doing quality assurance and data management for our CPO, which is truly again my strength. I love being able to help programs, get better at what they're doing. As my CEO calls me, I'm the fixer, so I go in and I'm able to help strategize and help them just develop a better program. And then, from there, I got to work with the College to Career Program when they lost a director. And after about three months, it was like I need to be in this program, like these are my people, this is my tribe. And between the staff, I love the staff age, of entry-level staff members, trying to really help them launch their careers. As well as our students of that age of 18- to 24-year-olds trying to figure it out and trying to be a grown-up.
And then my personal background, I have a daughter on the spectrum who was diagnosed later in life. So, I've been living the person-centered plan with her and all the glory of a 22-year-old. And then, about 11 years of volunteering with mental health adolescents. So, a lot of experience doing that.
Dr. Gwen: I mean I have had the distinct pleasure and privilege of working with you. So, I can say firsthand that you were just a complete breath of life into--
Kelly: Thank you.
Dr. Gwen: --College to Career and to C2C. So, wow--it's so cool to be able to do this because I didn't know all of those juicy bits about you and I just--oh, it's like, it just adds more like--I don't know, I just love it. Okay.
Kelly: Okay, thank you.
Dr. Gwen: So, I asked you to choose a virtual background.
Kelly: Mm-hmm. Yes.
Dr. Gwen: So, tell me--tell us about these lovelies behind you.
Kelly: So, this was a day I call it the "Proud Mama Moment" of when my students started sending me photos because they realized they took over a city bus. So, we do a lot of--all of our programming is in the community. So, it's either at the Pasadena City College or it's on the--I call the "Mean Streets of Pasadena." And so, they are learning how to ride the buses, how to use the trains and we happen to be doing a workshop at the West Comm Building, professional workshop. We do--when the students aren't in school or when it's like a scheduled break, like winter break or spring break, we do a series of workshops. So, we don't stop during that time. And we move--the West Comm Building was gracious enough to let us use it and kind of grow up and be professionals. And so, the students, I drove back to the office and I was waiting for them to do what they're supposed to do and I started getting pictures on my phone. And I was like, "What is this?" And what they did is, they realized they took over the entire city bus. And what I loved and what I was so proud of, when you look at all the pictures you can't tell who's who. And that was what I really wanted in the program.
I visited a lot of programs, so you could definitely tell the "Us in Them" mentality. The who are the staff, who are the non-staff. And one of the things that I really--if you're going to mentor somebody and if you were truly going to help make a difference in their life, you have to build rapport and you have to build trust. And the only way you can do that is to be treated equally. And this was one of those moments that it was like we're there, that my staff have been able to do what I need them to do. And it's just so much fun, they're having so much fun. And, just as I would expect me to be having, my friends would be having, my daughter and that was just one of the greatest moments, so that, that's why I picked this background.
Dr. Gwen: I love it. I just--and I love like the faces. They're just--
Dr. Gwen: They're gorgeous and happy. And they're just having a blast, and it's so great.
Kelly: Oh, yeah. When even the ones that are trying to look cool, like there's one out--here he is, the guy with the sunglasses, he's like, "I don't know you, people."
Dr. Gwen: Right. Which is also very developmentally--
Kelly: Exactly, right? It's total 20s, right? I think that's the whole thing is that I have a group of young 20-year-olds being young 20-year-olds, which it--a lot of time, especially when our students come to us, they don't know how to be young adults.
Dr. Gwen: Yeah.
Kelly: Right? They've been so programmed to be a certain way that this is for some of them the first time they're hitting their developmental stages, as they should be, right?
Dr. Gwen: Yeah. And given the opportunity.
Kelly: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Dr. Gwen: Opportunities, you know, to do so, which is also important.
Dr. Gwen: So, let's maybe get into talking about and describing what College to Career is. Talk to us about the program.
Kelly: Okay, so the program is, it’s hence the name, "College to Career." So, our students have to want to go to college or they have to want to experience college. So, we have some people who know, "I want to go to school, I want to get a degree, but I need some support," right? We have other ones who say, I don't--just like every other young adult, "I don't know what I want to do. I think I want to go to college, so I want to try it." So, we allow students to explore that part of their lives. So, one of the things that we do is we really help the students find out what's important to them, right? So, ours is very much a person-centered plan and it's what's important to them, not to their families, not to anybody else. And so, we really work with them to start having their dreams, dream big. So, if a student comes to me and says, "I want to be a doctor," my job isn't to be the dream crusher, right? Just like all of us. I mean you happen to be a doctor that's different. But a lot of people say, "I want to be a vet, I want to be this," and then reality sets in of, "Maybe I don't want to go to school that long or maybe that's too hard," as a lot of my staff, say biochemistry told me I was not going to be a doctor. Right, it's like--
Dr. Gwen: Yes, yes.
Kelly: And that's natural, like that is a natural progression we all have to go through. So, we allow our students to do that. We find out what's important to them and what they're really willing to work hard for. We always--and one of the things that we teach our families, is we start with--we believe they have presumed competence. They can do anything they set out to be, it doesn't matter. Then they either work hard to get it or they have to have the real conversations with themselves. "I don't want to go to school, this class is too hard," the same way you and I do, it's just not or we did in our young age. It just happened naturally, right? And within ourselves we're trying to figure it out with our students, you have to help them connect the dots more, right? We also listen to behavior which we talk a lot to the families. I have two types of students which always cracked me up. I have the student who says, "Yes I want to go to college," they're repeating every word their parents say. And then, they go to college and they're not interested, right? They're misbehaving, they're cutting class, they're doing all these things. But saying the words, "I want to go to college."
Then I have the other student who I love her and she says, "I hate college, I hate being a grown-up." And we're like "Okay" and she's like, "I'm not going to go to school," I'm like "Okay, but your classes start--" "I got to go." Picks up her backpack, goes, passes the classes, but she mutters the entire way. Tells me how much she hates being a grown-up and a college student, but her behavior tells us, "I want to be a college student and I'm struggling through this." So, we really help parents and listen to that behavior and help them identify what's important to their student, not to them or what their dreams are, what the student's dreams are. And then, we also try to really respect the diversity of the students, cultural diversity, whatever that may be. And, let them explore that part of their lives.
Dr. Gwen: That's so amazing. Maybe you could help us kind of see the nuts and bolts of this? Or kind of where the rubber's meeting the road. So, like, what would a day in the life of a student look like?
Dr. Gwen: Or a C2C student look like? Give us maybe just a generic kind of an example of that.
Kelly: Okay. So, a day. So, what happens, is a student shows up to school, what we really hope is that they are getting there on their own, right? They could be there with their parents but part of it is we're trying to give them as much independence as possible, right? So, they show up on the campus or in the community, depending on what the day looks like, because we run about--we were on a six-hour day, five days a week, because there's components of the program. So, we talked about the college component. The other two components of the program are Independent Living Skills, right? Because there are some things that just every young adult needs to learn, right? You need to be able to cook your own meals, right? I'm not talking elaborate meals, but if you can't make a macaroni and cheese or a simple grilled cheese sandwich, what happens when you want to move out, right? You need to be able to do your own laundry, you need to be able to shop, you need to be able to do money in real-life situations. We have students who come to us who have never handled cash, right?
Dr. Gwen: Yeah.
Kelly: They handle paper money or fake money in these classrooms, but when it comes to let's go to the 99 Cent Store and figure out what this $5 is going to be, they don't. So, we really put--make sure that they're getting this experience is in real-life situations, right? And they're not fake, it's like you want to go--you want to do a cooking skill, you're going to have to make the menu, you're going to have to set up your budget, you're going to have to take your cash. We make them take cash. You can go the store, pay for it, and bring back to change. Like that's really what we're looking. So, a day can look like, you show up, you've negotiated with your coach, so the coaches are 2:1, so you and another student have one coach to use as support. So, I think of your coach as a resource, it's not your supervisor.
So, you work with this other student and this coach of how long are we going to work out the day? I may need that coach in class with me. So, we have students who say, "I need you sitting right next to me at the beginning to help me focus, to pick up notes that I'm not." Right? Whatever--to negotiate the new one, you know, the social awkwardness of being in a classroom. So, we have coaches who'll sit right next to a student, maybe in the back of the classroom, maybe sitting literally outside of the door. So, when the student has an anxiety attack, they walk out the door, the coach talks to him for five minutes, they go back in. Or just being on campus, right? So, they work with their coach and figure out the best way the coach can support them that day.
Along with that on-campus, we may help them navigate tutoring. We don't tutor, right? That's something that they have to learn how to use the resources at hand. So, we might work with them of, "How do you use a tutor, how do you make the appointments for the tutor," right? We might sit with them and have going to the library and say, "How do you study?" "How do you navigate this?" "How do you unpack your syllabus?" So, that's what a coach is doing on campus, right? We also run study groups, so getting them to--getting used to, because that's a typical college thing, working in study groups.
So, we have mandatory study groups at minimum of one hour a week. So, they're getting used to it. They start either--right now our building headquarters is two blocks away. So, if I have some behavioral challenges that I know I get too distracted, I may start study group there. And then, we move to the library, and then we move on campus. And so, we're working with them and we're talking to them, it's not punishment. We're helping building your capacity to manage your own life, right? And then ILS skills can be everything for bring your laundry and we'll take it down to the laundry mat, and we're going to learn how to do that, cooking. And then, the third part of the component of the program is volunteering, because a lot of our students don't have anything for their resume. So, we talk about resume building. And we really want their volunteer work to be something they're--they love, not--we hear a lot of, "Oh I want to do this." "Oh, why do I want to do that?" "I don't know." "Somebody told me that's an easy volunteer." And it's like, "Well, that sounds dumb."
Dr. Gwen: Yeah, yeah.
Kelly: You know, like, "Why would you do that? You want to do something that you're willing to put your hard work in." And so, we've really worked with them to help using things like volunteer match. So, the same programs, we don't--our staff don't go out there and find a volunteer job, right? That's the student’s work. And so, part of that is identifying what it is, going through the application process, the orientation with support, but that's really what they want. I mean one of the great stories is we had a student who volunteered at the Armory in Pasadena, and he did it and he's like, "I think I'm ready to be without a coach," like "I am ready to launch on my own." And we're like "Great!" and he did that for a little bit. And he's like, "Okay, now I need somebody come back in because they're only letting me pull weeds." Like "I want to have a different conversation with them, but I'm not feeling I can."
So, the coach is there to work out that conversation and then just to be there to kind of prompt them, to be the emotional support that they need. And now, he's taken another job. So, coaching comes in a lot of different ways for our students. But they figure out how the coaching works for them, which is very different than going from a high school program, where the staff member is usually the person who's dictating what the student does, how they're going to utilize them, and they're--I would say in the high school program or the IEPs, the parent is the customer and they're working for the parents and answering the parents for us, it's the student is our customer. And so, we work directly with the student.
Dr. Gwen: Well, and I think that really captures kind of the natural shift from coming out of high school, right? Where the responsibility now of my life and my agency shifts from being fully supported potentially in high school under an IEP.
Dr. Gwen: To sometimes feeling like being pushed off the cliff.
Dr. Gwen: You know, when you go into a college setting or a collegiate setting or trying to engage in your--start your adult life. Really now, the responsibility falls squarely on your own shoulders.
Dr. Gwen: And if we haven't had any practice as with any skill, right, doing that. That can feel really overwhelming.
Kelly: Oh, yeah.
Dr. Gwen: What it also sounds like is that the coaches--you said 2:1, right?
Kelly: Mm-hmm, yeah.
Dr. Gwen: 2:1 coach.
Dr. Gwen: That the coaches are following the intent and the lead of the student.
Dr. Gwen: So, the student is driving the bus or driving their own car, vehicle.
Dr. Gwen: And that the coach is then facilitating that path and that journey.
Dr. Gwen: And so, you know, sometimes I can imagine that students don't necessarily come with that kind of clarity.
Kelly: No they don't at all. And that's how we start with our discovery program is for them--we have discovery. So, the way the program runs is you enter in two different times, up to four times in our program, but two really main points, and that's six weeks before the college semester begins. Because we do six weeks of discovery, because we realize a lot of these students don't know what their hopes and dreams are, right? They've been told what they are, but they've never been able to explore them. So, we're also doing kind of informal assessments. "How are you in public transportation? How are you at ordering your own meal?" Things that you need to know on a college campus. "How are you with personal space? How are you without supervision?" You know, all of these things. And then, during that time we're preparing for their path plan which is that personal life plan to decide, "What are my hopes and dreams and what am I willing to work hard for? And, "How do I want to set my goals up for my journey through college to career." And so, with that path plan, that dictates everything that we do with the students, right? And they're the ones who run the plan.
And so, it could be, "I want to drive and even though I have parents who say well they can't drive, I'm like, "Oh, if they're 18 in the state of California, they can," right? I'm not saying you have to give them a car, I'm not saying you have to pay for their insurance, I'm not saying you have to pay for lessons. What I'm saying is, he or she has the right to drive as a citizen of California at the age of 18. Now, what my goal is to develop all of those skills, so, they can do that, right? And, that's be able to pass a test. Make them take the bus to go get the test, right? And when the parents here like, "We're giving them all the components," and I said, "So, if they came to you with money in hand to pay for the permit, they're ready to take the test and they can get to the DMV by themselves. I think that's a different conversation from your young adult to you than right now." And parents are saying, "Yeah, if they could do that, that is a different conversation." So, we try also help parents reframe the thinking of, "This is my child who needs all of my--" Which every parent goes through but it's even scarier--
Dr. Gwen: Sure.
Kelly: With a child with a disability, that, "This is my child, so this is my young adult who's emerging to adulthood." And so, our parents, we also help our parents understand our students have the same rights, in the same--we have the expectations for them. One, the dignity of risk, right? We learned as much from our mistakes in life as we do from our successes. And a lot of our students aren't allowed to fail. The IEP program or their families build in a system that either doesn't let them fail, right? So, they don't go through those natural growing pains or they cover-up that they failed. They pretend it didn't happen. So, there's no real conversation. There's no conversation of what--you know, "How did this happen? What are we going to do differently?" So, we allow our students to fail which is really difficult for our families because they're like, "Why aren't your staff stepping in?" It's like, "We can't make a student go to college just like nobody could make you go to college." "Nobody can make you take a test. We give them the same rights, even if it hurts."
So, when we have to have conversations of academic probation, that is a natural consequence. We talk to the students about what that looks like, we talked to them about what a college student expectations are. And they can still choose to ignore all of it. And then, come up with having to meet with the dean, right? All those things that--And then decide, is college for them. We also help them identify with that their dreams, whatever that is and we help them get as close as possible. So, again we don't say, "You can't do it," what we say is "What do you need to be able to do that," right? So, I haven't--which is really important. Like every young man he's like, "I want to be a screenwriter." I'm like, "Great." And they came to me probably about six months later and goes, "Kelly, I need better reading and writing skills to be a screenwriter." I'm like, "Yeah, so, what are you going to do about that?" And he's like, "I think I want to use my coach to learn how to read better." I'm like, "All righty then." And that's the movement that we look at. It's not, "You know, you're not a good reader, bummer for you," it's "What are you willing to do?"
And so, for he signed--last time we started I'm doing these workgroups, the study group, three hours a week and doing nothing but reading. And just developing that skill better. He's like, "Because I have a lot of ideas up here, I just don't know how to get them out on paper." And that's what we do with our students, opposed to just saying, "You won't be able to do that." It's, "What are you willing to work hard for." And also helping our families really see their student in a different light. I think so many of them, which I understand, you see the limitations or the lost dreams you've had for them. And, sometimes it clouds what their student can be. And that's really part of helping them redefine who their student is. And help revisit that relationship as this is a young adult and there will be an adult a lot longer than there going to be a child.
And so, how do we have that grown-up relationship and respecting all of those things. And so, we're planning it together.
Dr. Gwen: Yeah. And, you know, I think what's so important and you've highlighted this, which is in order for a parent to let go. If their student or their child's been supported in a very comprehensive, let's say, school program up to this point.
Dr. Gwen: The parent can let go albeit if the program is good, okay?
Kelly: Yeah, yeah.
Dr. Gwen: And now it's all--it's a new frontier, right? Now, they can be conserved or not conserved. Now, they're going into a brand-new system where the accommodations at the collegiate level you and I both know are maybe too--
Dr. Gwen: Compared to the 25 that you can list as an IEP. And so, what helps parents let go is to see action.
Dr. Gwen: Is to see behavior growth and change. That is intrinsically motivated and driven by their own now-adult child.
Dr. Gwen: And so, in order to do that, parents need to trust that there is a system in place that has some thoughtfulness, that has some goals.
Dr. Gwen: That has--you know, we're aligned in the same outcomes.
Kelly: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Dr. Gwen: Which ultimately I think for most parents and programs, it is how do we support you to be the best you.
Dr. Gwen: You can be, right? Whatever that looks like for that person. I mean speaking of outcomes, what would you say are C2C's biggest desired outcomes for their students?
Kelly: So, for us is really gaining the confidence to be independent, right? Because some kids, what I hear which it always breaks my heart is, "I can never do that. I will never be able to do that." You know, when we talk about public transportation it's like, "Yeah, you will. Yeah, you can," right? So, giving them the confidence and then the skills to feel as an adult, as a grown-up adult, that's really one of the outcomes. And whatever that looks like for them. Is it making their own money, is it making, what I call, "grown-up decisions," right? What does that look like?
Dr. Gwen: Yeah.
Kelly: I think dreaming big, I want my students who come to me that say--which is--oh, it cracks me up. I've decided all IEPs go to Target and Best Buy, because most of my students want to work at Target and Best Buy. And when we talk about that, it's because that's all they know. And so, what I want them when they leave us, I want them to talk about all the different options in their life. So, choice is true choice and they've been exposed to so many things. And, to be able to explore so many different paths, they can have true choice, right?
Dr. Gwen: Yeah.
Kelly: I think it's also that they can make a choice. We have students who have no fault to the parents. We all want to take care of our babies and all of that, but they go from their parents, making choices to them, to the school making choices to them. That I have students who can't even tell me where they want to go to eat, right? They don't know, they want somebody to tell them. So, the fact that they can have an opinion, they can make a choice, those are outcomes. Because that is--that's how you have self-advocacy for yourself, right? When you look at--like I have a young man when regional center said, "No, we're not going to support this program, because his certificate was dropped at PCC." No fault of his own. And they said, "We're not going to be able to support your program, because you're not in a certificate program." And, we've worked with him for a few years, he goes, "So, what is the process for that?" I'm like, "Well, there's an appeal process." And he's like, "Well, I think that's what we're going to do." Now, if you met this young man at the beginning, he wouldn't have been able to have that conversation. So, there he is writing his letter to his regional center saying, "I want an appeal and let me know what my next steps are." And now, lo and behold...
Dr. Gwen: That's fantastic.
Kelly: Guess what? He's in the program again. And that is, that empowerment to say, "You have the right, you have a voice and people will listen." That's our outcomes. And we see that all the time, the young man going to college who he's taken us to his university because he's like I can't figure out why not. Let me advocate for myself. So, those are the outcomes and all that advocating looks differently. Those are the big ones, but it's even somebody who tells their parent, "I don't want to go to college."
Dr. Gwen: Yeah.
Kelly: We don't look at as failure for us. What we look at is you finally have a choice. You have something to compare it to and you can say, "Right now, college isn't for me," which is a real conversation for any young adult.
Dr. Gwen: Absolutely.
Kelly: College is hard, you have to want to do it. So, when we have a student who says, "I don't want to," it's by true choice. And that's what we like, that they can articulate what it is and why they want to try something different. In that, it doesn't mean they can't come back to college. They're just not ready now. And so, those are the outcomes we're really looking for is allowing them to have the same experiences as an emerging adult or a young adult that we all had.
Dr. Gwen: Nice, nice. Really, really allowing that authentic kind of space.
Dr. Gwen: Which is hard sometimes to put language to.
Kelly: Yeah, it is.
Dr. Gwen: And so, sometimes you need the experience to be able to put language to the experience.
Dr. Gwen: Kelly, how long would you say a typical student is in the C2C program with you?
Kelly: That's a hard one, people always want to, kind of come up with the time because what we need--what we have to do is really meet the student where they are. And so, part of like they may take a year to just figure out college, like to be able to--because if they come to us of without self-regulation, right? So, being able to self-manage their lives. Our first year may be teaching them how do you self-manage, right? Let alone on a college campus, let alone any place else. Some of it could be, you know, I had a one-to-one aide, with all of these accommodations and from my IEP, and now, you're putting me in a classroom of 30 other people. That in itself is building that capacity is huge or I get to get up and walk around any time I want. "Well, you can't do that in college all the time."
They're not going to make you stay there, but you're going to miss a lot of notes. The professor. So, it really depends, I mean we've had--So, this year, we have two students who are getting their AAs and moving on to universities. One of them will support, the other one we're going to have more conversations with their regional center. Other ones who are getting certificates, right? So, it could be anywhere from a two-year program, but some people it may take us a year just to get them ready to start their college career.
And so, it's a really hard piece. I know, when I took it over people like we need to come up with the date, but if you're truly doing person-centered planning, and you're meeting the student where they are, then we do that. And so, I try not to give a date. Well, you have to--well you do have to take a--you have to take classes and be moving toward some completion. You have to be moving toward something. So, we do move them forward, it's not just you get to sit in limbo or not take classes. The only time we allow classes not to be taken is the winter, like there's called an intersession.
Dr. Gwen: The intersessions, yeah.
Dr. Gwen: They're like these lightning rounds. I mean--
Kelly: Thank you.
Dr. Gwen: Yeah.
Kelly: When I went to school, I took it one time and it almost killed me. And I thought I would never make anybody do that. But we do have students who do that, right? They're ready for that, they love that lightning round, but a typical--disabled or not a typical student is not ready to compact 18 weeks into six, like that is just very hard. So, that's when we put together our workshops. And what we're doing is our professional workshops, their Independent Living Skills workshops, and their interest workshops, of how do we find out what's important to you or what you like. And then, we offer them a lot of different things to explore, a lot of different interests, because part of being a grown-up, or in my mind being a healthy grown-up, is knowing how to use your leisure time, how to deal with your downtime, right? How do you engage when you're not in a structured program? And so, we realize that's very important to a lot of our young adults, because they have been programmed that when they're left alone, it is not pretty.
Dr. Gwen: Yeah.
Kelly: And they're getting to trouble.
Dr. Gwen: Yes, yes. Idle time, idle time. It can lead to that.
Kelly: Yes, exactly.
Dr. Gwen: Can we talk about and shift gears just a scooch? Can we talk about how C2C works with the Disabled Student Programs and Services or, what we know as DSPS?
Dr. Gwen: Just in case people don't know what that is. Could you describe what that service is at the collegiate level? And then, talk about how C2C works with them?
Kelly: Yeah. So, I can talk about how we work with PCC and kind of as we're moving forward with Channel Island University. So, all these colleges have their own Disabled Student Service Program. And so, that's where accommodations are met and as you've said, accommodations are very limited. You may have a note-taker, you may have an aide that you can have in class, you may have extra time on a test, you may have a recording device allowed in your program. And you're pretty much limited to those things, right? That is your accommodations. And if you have a deaf and hard of hearing or sight-impaired, there may be some additional ones. But that's what you get. And so, that's how the school works with the professors or the teachers on campus to make sure the students' accommodations are made. So, that if you have an extended test, they are the ones who get the test, the proctor at someplace else, so you have your extended time or not being interrupted.
Where we come in to working with DSPS, we're in a partnership. So, we work--they know we're on campus. I have--right now, I say on-campus even though we're in this time of remote learning. When we left PCC, we had 50 students and 25 staff on campus. So, our program had about 75 people at any given time on their campus. So, we have to work in partnership, right? We sit on their committees. And so, we're working with them, we're talking about what we're doing in the classrooms, they know who our coaches are. We explain what's the difference between a coach and maybe a PSA, because PSAs are, they're private, personal--
Dr. Gwen: Service.
Kelly: Service attendants, right. Support system. They may deal with somebody more with behavior, we don't. If a student wants to misbehave, they have the right to misbehave, if they want to do their, what I call their "bonehead behavior," they have the right, just like any other college student does. We may coach them not to do that, but that's the dignity of risk, right? All of us learn, especially I was that person. I am not the 50-year-old you see today, is not the 20-year-old, you know, going through college.
Dr. Gwen: Yeah.
Kelly: That you learned that, "Oh, I can't do that, I can't just do what I want, when I want." And so, we work with the professors and the DSP office saying, "A coach is there to support them, we're not there to supervise them." And so, they help us do that. We also give--with that now with the remote because of that relationship, when we went to remote services, we were able to meet with the DSPS office, and say, "We need to be in the classrooms, we need to be in there via Zoom, how do we do that?" So, we have a long-standing relationship with them and we talked about we're in it for the same reason, we have two different functions and how do we work together to make it happen.
Dr. Gwen: Yeah.
Kelly: And so, that's kind of how we work with them. We don't make any decisions for a student about their education. So, we're not school counselors. What our staff does is say, "We think you should meet with a counselor. This is how you go do it," and we may sit in that meeting with them. We might prep them for the meeting. Meaning what do you want to talk about? What should the college student talk about? Or if sometimes the parents, especially if a child is concerned with education that may be a parent's job and will say, "That is your role, we will not take that role, we'll just help the student make the appointment, and then you go into that." If they're not concern and the student wants to try it, we allow them to do that. And they can take a coach or not a coach, we always encourage a coach. But if the student says, "No," because sometimes it--being a young adult are too cool to have a coach, right? And there's some pluses and minuses with that, which we allow them to do.
Dr. Gwen: Yeah. I really love this concept of the dignity of risk. And I think that that can feel scary to any one of us that our parents, right? Especially when we've been trying to protect our kids from risk forever, you know?
Kelly: Yes, yeah.
Dr. Gwen: And so, that idea of--and maybe just expanding that life, we often take calculated risks. You're talking about calculated risks here; you're not talking about life-threatening things. So, obviously that's a time when you might say, "I know. "We're not doing that, okay."
Kelly: We're not doing that, yeah.
Dr. Gwen: Yeah, we're not doing that. So, that's so important, because I think what that draws up, and even in me as a parent, is this idea of do I--how much do I trust my own kid?
Dr. Gwen: How much do I trust this system? This program?
Dr. Gwen: Right? And what does this mean about me, too? What does it mean as a parent and my own tolerance for risk, and tolerance for change, and tolerance for ambiguity?
Dr. Gwen: And I think that is also--that can mirror parents that also have adult children without disabilities as well.
Kelly: Oh, yeah. Completely. That’s the hardest thing.
Dr. Gwen: So hard. I mean, so hard. Kelly, there are other college-type support programs out there, like a college living experience or a college internship program. Can you help people differentiate College to Career from a program like that?
Kelly: Yeah, in fact, we've had two students start with our program as kind of the training ground, what that looks like. And it helped build confidence for their parents because those programs are live-in programs. So, you go and you live in either like simulated dorm living, so you're not on a campus. And that they're really away from their families. So, again, you’d live with your family, and we’d support you kind of locally, that's where we are now at PCC. All of our students live in home and then come to PCC and they're with us about six hours a day. Those other programs are, you move away just like you would in going away to college, you move away. And we've had two students who have done that, that their parents wanted to see how they did in our program. So, we're the training ground, build confidence. And also, with one of the parents, it was the negotiation. It's like, "You want this live-away experience, I need to see how you do."
Dr. Gwen: Yeah, "Show me this first."
Kelly: "Show this to me." And the kid did brilliantly. And the parents like, "We are ready for that next step." And so, it helped build that confidence for the youth to go live away, make these grown-up decisions, which they are, because nobody's supervising you. And what was fun is those programs, which is interesting, only run like the academic year. And so, when her summer ended, they contact us back and said, "We don't want her to lose the skills." And so, she advocated with her regional center to come back into our summer program.
Dr. Gwen: Nice.
Kelly: And so, went, came back, because the value of keeping those skills up, doing something moving toward their goals. And so, that's really what I see with the differences. Theirs is live-away so I think it's that next step, because I think it'd be very scary if you have a child who's never made a grown-up decision in their life to go live on their own.
Dr. Gwen: Yeah.
Kelly: That is very tough. They shouldn't be practicing grown-up decisions there.
Dr. Gwen: Yeah.
Kelly: I mean, for your first time because they could be so life-changing, opposed to where we are. Because even though we work, we don't--so, when I say we don't work with the parents, that we work with the parents limitedly. So, please understand. What we do is if we do have a student who is showing behavior that we are worried about; we're going to bring in what we called an IDT. And they're interdisciplinary team and the parent is one of them. And the student knows this. It's if you don't want us to have to tell the world about your behavior, then you have to behave this way. If not, you force me, as an agency, to make some different decisions. And so, at that point, we bring in their team which is their caseworker, or their Service Coordinator from regional center, their parent, them, their coach, me, their supervisor. We say, "All right, let's have a real meeting." Why? And, behavior's communication. Is this behavior telling me you don't want to be in college? Is this behavior telling me you need more supports than we can provide?
Dr. Gwen: Yeah.
Kelly: So, that conversation happens. We have it at times that the child's on academic probation. they're showing scary--what I call scary behavior--behavior that's going to get them injured. We've had students who just leave, they'll tell a staff member they're going to the bathroom, and then they leave campus. So, there's a part of me that's like, "Rock on, you figured it out," and the other part of me, "We're shutting that down right now."
Dr. Gwen: Right.
Kelly: Exactly. Because gaining independence sometimes our students, just like any young adult, they lose their mind. And so, how do we help them have the balance of, "I get to make all my own decisions, and then knowing that some decisions can get me hurt."
Dr. Gwen: Yeah.
Kelly: So, that's how we want them--So, I'd say those are the difference between our programs of really the live-off, live away from home to we're still supporting you in the home.
Dr. Gwen: Yeah, and I love seeing that as a continuum of service. Kind of this gradual buildup of confidence and skills and much like we spoke up about earlier, that when we see our kids or we see our students behave and act in certain ways, that builds confidence in us as well.
Kelly: Most definitely.
Dr. Gwen: As a system, as parents, as a provider.
Dr. Gwen: And that actions do speak loud and how you've been saying it this whole time is behaviors communicate. Behaviors say something, we need to pay attention. And, see them, and have a dialogue about it, and meet them. That's so lovely.
Kelly: Yeah, and we do that with our program. So, our students have to debrief every day with their coaches. And so, that's part of what I realized with young adults with disabilities or not: getting feedback is very difficult in life. Nobody wants feedback, unless it's good. And we see a lot of people, and even like I said, I employ a lot of people. Feedback is so difficult for them. And we realized that you need to be able to take feedback and of your own self. So, it's not the coach saying, "Oh, Gwen, you didn't do this," what we do is say, "So, you said you wanted to work on your DMV handbook and you didn't. What gives? Why? What’s going on?"
Dr. Gwen: Right. "What now?"
Kelly: Exactly. "What do you want to do? Why?" And a lot of it is--the structure we have set up was we put their goals. And it's like, "Has your goals change?" Playing video games is not really going to get you to what you want. Now, we can't stop them from playing on their phones, but what we can do is keep reminding them that this is not getting you to your goals. This is going to get you toward academic probation. This is not going to get you to where you want. So, our coaches and students meet every day to talk about what they put out for them for that day. Did they meet that goal? And so, really helping our students put it together, have that self-assessment of, "Am I doing what I set out to do?" Learning how to set goals and achieving them and having that how to have that difficult conversation with themselves.
Dr. Gwen: Yeah.
Kelly: And that’s what I really like, because for a lot of--they have to decide, that's where they're starting to really make that choice of, "I don't want to do this." "Okay, great. What do you want to do next?"
Dr. Gwen: Right.
Kelly: Or, "I don't want to get a job." In my life, in my family, which I tell students, is in my family, my daughter is not going to sit on the couch and play videos all day. That is not an option. It's work or school, her choice. But those are the two options for any grown up in our home.
Dr. Gwen: Yeah.
Kelly: So, if your parents feel the same way, we have to help you choose one or the other. And so, how are we going to do that? And so, that's some of the conversations with them. Because a lot of our students, which a lot of young adults, don't put together that there's something after playing video games through high school. There's more to life and responsibility.
Dr. Gwen: Yeah, and part of that is just the pure ability to be a little bit more future-oriented, or set goals, or delay gratification, or the executive functioning. Just make a plan and to do it and to control your impulses to play the video game in order to go to class. I mean, it's all of these things that we just see where the rubber is really meeting the road.
Kelly: Yeah, and it's so important because I think in what I have seen, and also been through an IEP program. So, remember I have a daughter that they talk about it in theory. There's a lot of theoretical stuff that happens in high school with these ideas but it's not practiced in real-life situations. With realized consequences because no IEP team wants to say, "Oh, they failed." That is not part of the conversation. Well, with us, what we realize, it's all practice. And we have the real conversation of, "Your executive function does not work the way everybody else’s does." So, what is it? What are those challenges?" And what we also do with that and made me think is, what I see in a lot of our students is the embarrassment of their disability or challenges. They don't want to identify this group of people and it's really sad to me. It's sad because, you and I, we gravitate to people we like, right? So, for me, it's going to be moms, or it's going to be people who are gay, or people who love Comic-Con, or people who like--all these little groups that I identify with. I have a learning disability myself. I was a senior in college when I finally had a group to be able to pinpoint it and say, "I'm never going to be able to read the way I think I should." That was life-changing for me. And for a student not to be able to grasp onto that and say, "I'm never going to be able to do this, I'm never going to be able to take notes when people are talking to me." And if they keep playing to that weakness they will always feel less then. But if they say, "I'll never be able to take notes, and I will always have to have a note-taker," and let that go. The empowerment of that because that's just a challenge. So, we teach them, "What are your challenges? Can we overcome it or do we need to work around it? What is the workaround for that disability or that challenge?" And having those real conversations because very few people want to admit what their challenges are, or they play with it.
Dr. Gwen: Yes.
Kelly: IEP program and the regional center program is deficit-based. It's absolutely deficit-based. So, when a student comes in, we don't read those as a group. I have what they call the education navigator who's my case manager. Does the intake, the meet-and-greet, all of that. And then, when they introduce the student to us, we hear about what they want to do, what's their education, and we get to learn about this person without the preconceived ideas of all of their deficits. And that is life-changing for our students. Because parents will say, "Have you read the IEP?" "No." "Why not?" "Because it doesn't matter." I want to meet Gwen, Gwen who was fun and perky, and thinks she wants to be a rock star and that's the person I want to meet.
The IEP is the education part which we'll get to but that's not who she is. And so, for some of our parents, they're so used to telling you every deficit and that's how they introduce and see their child, and that's how their child sees them. And so, we don't--we are strength-based. We look at all the good things, and then what we do is we deal with the deficit. What we say is, "That's a challenge." How are we going to overcome your challenge? Call it what it is, it's a challenge. And so, for some of them I'm really able to relate with them because they know, "I'm not going to be able to do this." "I don't do this. " There's somebody who edits all my work to a point into my career, I have somebody who writes my stuff because why am I going to play to my deficit?
Dr. Gwen: Yeah.
Kelly: You don't have to. There's other people, I would say, "I have the gift of gab, that is what I play to." I have a friend who is an amazing writer and I'm like, "You write it up for me?" "Yeah, within the agency." "You do that and I will speak every great thing you say."
Dr. Gwen: Yeah.
Kelly: And teaching our students that that is an option opposed to playing to your deficits.
Dr. Gwen: Yeah, and there's this piece that really speaks to me. It reminds me of the struggle that I had with what I was going to call my podcast. And I want to use that as an excuse for why it took me so long, and I finally came up with Disabled and Empowered.
Kelly: Oh, I love that.
Dr. Gwen: Because I think with ownership comes empowerment.
Dr. Gwen: And I find--I can really, really relate to what you're saying because so many of my clients come to me with what they can't do.
Dr. Gwen: Or seeing themselves a certain way, or that we've been trying to hide it from them for so long but they know something's going on. So, now they feel shame. And when we say, "This is how you work. Own it. Now, let's move."
Dr. Gwen: And there's just this--and so, now we see--I asked one of my clients the other day, "What is the benefit of having autism?" And I felt like they almost fell over. "What?" And what we discovered is how amazing their memory is, a memory I could never touch. How quickly they can see things. I mean, about all of these things that leads to real-life value in the sense of, "Oh, man, if we connected you to work that utilize these skills, you're unstoppable. No one's going to be able to touch you here." And so, I love this idea of really owning the identity that there is nothing shameful or wrong with having a disability. And so, as an ally myself, me, this is my tribe as well, and I love it. Okay. Sorry.
Kelly: And so, with that, I'll use my daughter. And my daughter has given me permission to share some of the stuff with her.
Dr. Gwen: Thank you, daughter.
Kelly: Yeah, and she says, "Just tell them they got nothing on me, Mom." Because we have gone through a lot of interesting times with her and one of the things is we'd really talked to her about her brain wiring. This is brain wiring, nothing else. It's not about being better than or less than, it's brain wiring. And we can rewire your brain some, which when I finally read a book that said that I'm like, "Oh, that's where we're going." Because you don't hear those things. You don't hear that you can help somebody rewire it or at least own it. And so, what was interesting is we went through years of really helping her identify. And she doesn't identify as somebody on the spectrum. Every once in a while she's like, "Oh, I think that's showing." That's what she'll say, "I think the spectrum’s showing right now." In certain things, but she does, she has an amazing brain like perfect pitch, can play music by just listening to it, writing but her reality is everyone should do that. So, trying to really identify like, "Have you heard me try to play a piano?" "That's not it." So, when it really came to be in the first time she really identified, she chose college wasn't for her. It’s just not very brilliant, very smart, but the structure was not one thing she wanted to comply to. With the structure, we said, "Great, go get a job." And she did move out, got a job in a distribution place, and was making absolutely blowing nationwide numbers. Because in distribution, it's all about the numbers. And when I say nationwide, it's across the United States. Because they're coming to her, "What are you doing?" They say, "How can you do this?" She goes, "Because I'm autistic. Unless you're autistic, your brain is not going to work this way."
Dr. Gwen: So, move aside.
Kelly: Exactly. And they did. And they're like, "Whoa." So, she worked there as part-time at the beginning, now this is what her career is going to be. But she worked there for a month and a half and ranked 1, 2, or 3 from the second day on. And one day hit every number 1 across all of them. And was the first time she realized, "This is my niche in life."
Dr. Gwen: Yeah.
Kelly: My brain wiring is going to allow me to succeed in this kind of environment where all of that matters, wrote work. Wrote work that I can keep doing every day, all day.
Dr. Gwen: Without even blinking.
Kelly: Without even blinking, more energy than the average person, ability to anticipate and memorize. That perfect memory. She's like, "I can't even explain that memory." It's almost photographic, but not. And, then that ability to move my body in a way that can keep all of that going for an entire eight hours. And I was like, "Savannah, I think we got something on here," and she was, "Yeah, they need to hire more autistic people. Because if they did, they would have a team of people like me to being able to do this. And, it's those things and having a daughter who can have different conversations with me about that has really helped me in my work and having conversations with families and students because she is able to articulate. And, plus she's grown up with me and within our program and all these things, she gets it. But she'll say, "I think you need to go talk to these people about this, or I think you're missing something with your student, or have you thought about this?" Just different ways that we're able to help our students understand that it's just your wiring. And so, how do you either overcome it or change it. And, for them to know that they can change their wiring is that's the empowerment.
Dr. Gwen: Absolutely, absolutely. It's so awesome. I love hearing those stories, too. I just love it. It's like--yeah, I just love it. Anyway, Kelly, what would you say is the ideal student? The words I used with you earlier, "in the pocket" student.
Kelly: In the pocket. Yeah.
Dr. Gwen: In the pocket, who’s that ideal student for College to Career?
Kelly: I think it's a combination. So, one, the student and the family have to be ready for the journey. I mean, they absolutely have to be ready to want this individual to be a grown-up. Because if they're not, our program does not work for them. We're in constant odds with we want independence, and the parents are saying, "We don't want independence." So, they have to, the student, has to want to also develop those skills. Unlike some other programs, we don't test out, we don't assess out. What we say is in which we've done the research, in the state of California, anybody over the age of 18 has the right to go to community college. That is my take. You have the right to go to community college. Now, you may not make it into community college just like--I can't even tell you. I used to know the success rate of Community College, right? But a lot of people start and they end, that is a natural progression. So, it's really about the drive, they want to do it, they want to be coached, they want to try college. It doesn't mean they're going to be successful but you're going to have to want to try. And you're going to want to have to do some job skills. We want you to volunteer if you're willing. That's the pocket student. And we have success rates, like I said, if somebody who's going off to, they went to one of the living-in programs. I think its CLC probably, CLE possibly, or CLA. One in Fresno, we've had two that are graduating and going to two universities, art schools. We have a lot of different ones. And then, we have some other ones we're just trying to figure out. They're being successful. Some decided they're going to work. They gain some skills, a few classes to get them a better resume, or students that are keep trying to get toward a GED, a high school diploma, or an AA.
Dr. Gwen: Nice.
Kelly: So, it's really somebody who wants to do it, and their families have to be willing to allow them the growth.
Dr. Gwen: Got it. And, you mentioned regional center a lot, is that the primary way that C2C is funded for your students?
Kelly: We have two different fundings. So, that's a primary way, most definitely. We get a lot of referrals from regional center or a vendor through regional center, and we work with about four of them. But also we have been the transition program for high school programs. And so, we've worked with two different high schools where we had the transition program from 18- to 22-year-olds.
Dr. Gwen: When did that start?
Kelly: It started about two years ago, when I started.
Dr. Gwen: Okay. Well, we're going to need to talk offline more about that. That’s fantastic. So, working with high schools for that, so that would be school-district funded.
Kelly: Yes, school-district funded. So, we work with the school districts, we get contracts with them, and we offer the transition program.
Dr. Gwen: Fantastic, fantastic.
Kelly: It’s very exciting.
Dr. Gwen: That is really exciting. I mean, because there are some students that need that instead of a gap year, for example. Because we kind of don't know what we're doing. Take some--go into some structure that allows independent living skills, that allow some job exploration or vocational exploration.
Dr. Gwen: Gives you some, a taste of being what it's like to be an adult and making decisions, and working on mobility, and money, and all of these really underrated by the way.
Dr. Gwen: I think skills that are the heart of being empowered. If you know you can take care of yourself, and get yourself to places, and feed yourself, that's very empowering.
Kelly: Oh, yeah. Most definitely.
Dr. Gwen: We just forget about some of those little things sometimes.
Kelly: I think that's the whole thing is that we take as swishes adults are as independent adults. We take for granted we learned that somewhere, right? And, some of us learned it faster, some of us made it easy, but what we forget is true learning happen to get that. The burning your first meal or thinking you're going to bake something and be like, "Oh, I've got to watch the cookie." Whatever it is and then you put that in your mind, you’re like, "I won't do that next time or I am never making that again." Or losing your money, or getting in your first car accident, or getting lost in downtown LA. We learn, but we forget that. And, that's when we talk about to taking new risk, is we forget we learned all those things growing up. Those were all the pieces and parts that made me who I am today. As much as the negative parts, or the things I'm embarrassed about, you got me how to be the person today, and that's what we allow for our students. And you were saying about, which I don't think we really hit with the work. The other thing is because I said earlier that I have students who say, "I want to work here in here," we didn't work with exploration. We really go in in an interview what that looks like. So, when I have a student who says, "I want to be an usher at a movie theater." "Why do you want to do that?" "Because I get to watch movies." No. So, what we do is we set up times with movie theaters that they set up the meeting and they meet with a manager, they meet with the people who are sweeping, cleaning the toilets, making the popcorn, all these things. So, then that can still be your choice, but it's not about movies. So, we're really working with them to go to those locations and have conversations. We do mock interviewing skills.
Dr. Gwen: Yeah. So, we have some volunteer groups, so not only does our HR department, they volunteer their time to do interviews and give feedback. But then once they do that, and they do that during discovery. So, they get used to it, and then they go out. And, we have on two different volunteer groups, professionals in the community, and they'll interview our students and so they get dressed up, they prepare, and then they give them feedback. And so, we're trying to really give them these real-life skills just to see what it's going to be like writing the resume, going through the interview. Interviewing different jobs because we want to--I mean, I had so many crappy jobs growing up, right, when I finally--It took me ten years to get my degree because it was so hard. But because I had to take all those bad jobs it's like, "I have to get a degree. This is not where I will be at 40."
Dr. Gwen: This is not where I’m at.
Kelly: Exactly. And I did them all. I mean, you name it, I did the job. And, that was my inspiration to have the tenacity for 10 years. And, like I said, senior in college to find out my learning disability. So, right there you can tell it was a tough path. But our students need the same thing, they need those job experiences, they need those understanding that there's more than one job. And the job I have at 20, is not the job I'm going to have at 25, 30, 40, and 50, hopefully, right?
Dr. Gwen: Right.
Kelly: If it is, then it better be a job I love, right? And that's okay, too, but having opposed to thinking that I can only do one thing. And also what we look at what job skills when I read in an IEP or something, it’s like, "Oh, Kelly, talks much." I tell people this all the time, "If you would have looked at--" if I had an IEP, which I didn't, if I had an IEP there that said, "Kelly talks too much," "Kelly is fragmented," "Kelly can't focus," and "Kelly moves around way too much." That would have been my IEP, and my entire 12 years would have been trying to stop me to do all of that. I make a living because I talk too much, I can change gears faster than anyone, I have so much energy we can barely bottle it, and I can be fragmented because that allows my agency to be able to use me in many different ways. So, instead of 12 years working to get that out of me, I learn how to manage those challenges and found the people to help me curb that a little bit, redefine it, refine it to be the person I am today who makes a living out of things that would have been on my IEP to stop me valuing. And so, that's the piece we also make connection with the students of, "You have the gift of gab, you need to be in customer service."
Dr. Gwen: Right.
Kelly: "That's what you need to be, forget all this other stuff, you are brilliant. Let's give you some phone skills, let's get you some, you know, how to talk with people, how to do these things, and we're going to play to that." And find volunteer opportunities to allow them to do that. And some of them, it may be with AbilityFirst because it's a safe place for them. Some of them want that, right? "Why wouldn't I? Just like any other volunteer, "Why wouldn't I?" But then if not, let's go out into the real world. You can use that as a resume, and now we're putting it out there. So, that's how we look at job skills, we look at what you're good at, and then we find the work that's going to allow you to do that.
Dr. Gwen: Yeah, which really makes when you do have to work hard because even if it's a job you love and you're good at, there's still parts of that job that you got to contend with that you might not love, right?
Kelly: Yeah, exactly.
Dr. Gwen: And so, how do you do that but the first thing is to be aligned with something that comes naturally to you, and then you fill in the gaps, or you hone the skill, and maybe you work on the braking system a little bit. I can really relate and I think, just in working with you in the past, you and I are similar in some ways in the sense that we're energetic, and we're eager, and we can go fast in different directions. And that’s what makes it fun, right?
Dr. Gwen: This is probably the most controlled we've ever looked.
Kelly: Exactly, I know.
Dr. Gwen: I need to be quite honest. So, how do people get to you, Kelly? If someone says, "After listening to this interview, this has really transformed or opened my mind in some different ways. I want to explore this more." How do people get to C2C or get to you?
Kelly: Okay, there's a couple of different ways. One, you can go on our website which is a AbilityFirst.org and look for our programs, C2C. There's a way that you can fill in the information and it'll be sent to us. But also my contact information is on there, you can call us or email us. My kind of our customer service rule for a family is if you contact us, you'll hear back from us within three days. That is kind of our goal. Within that three days, if you are interested in our program, we'll have a meet and greet within 30 days. Thirty days from the beginning of talking to us to their acceptance. So, we move relatively quickly. Because this is your life, right, we don't sit and wait, we just can't.
And so, referrals, we get referrals from regional centers. You can go to your regional center counselor. We work with Lanterman, San Gabriel, Pomona, East LA, and South Central LA. So, those are the ones that we currently work with. You can talk to your school district and they can contact us. We have two that we've worked with and we actually help navigate that especially for school districts that are new to us. We started with one and we just got a second one to say, "This makes sense." We've also--we're willing to talk to a family. What we do tell families is your student needs to be present, we don't have conversations about this program without your student, which is really important. "Nothing about them without them," that's kind of our mantra. And so, families have to be ready for that. So, we do encourage a student to be part of that. And, we know shyness and everything is there but we do encourage that very much. And so, I can give you my email which is K-P-R-I-V-I-T-T @abilityfirst.org. So, that's [email protected] is one way, you can email me, and I'll get you into the system.
Dr. Gwen: That's awesome. And I'll also put all of the links in the description.
Dr. Gwen: So, I'll link that up, too.
Dr. Gwen: I like to end all of my interviews this way, which is if you could only choose one skill--
Kelly: One skill?
Dr. Gwen: --to empower an individual with, what would it be?
Kelly: To help them identify what is important to them.
Dr. Gwen: Yes, and that has rolled as a consistent theme throughout this interview. And you are the heart of this program, you are the heart and the soul of this program. And I think to have the voice come through, to give the opportunity for the voice to happen in the first place, and then to give it some substance which is so fantastic. And that it's dynamic, and it's highly personal and it's also timely in the sense of your--this age group is too highly transformative and so, that's phenomenal. Thank you so much for your time.
Kelly: You’re welcome. Thank you.
Dr. Gwen: The generosity of your spirit, I just--I love it. I'm so thankful that I have you as a colleague to rely on and collaborate with. So, thank you so much.
Kelly: Thank you so much.
Dr. Gwen: Thanks so much for watching and spending your time and energy here. I hope this interview with Kelly triggered insight or transformed your thinking in a meaningful way. Contact information for AbilityFirst's College to Career Program is in the description below where you'll also find a link for the transcript of this interview. If you got any value from this interview, please hit that Like button and subscribe to this channel where my goal is to empower you with reliable information that can transform thinking to practical action. See you in the next video. Thanks for watching.