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MARY JANE SARAS: Can you spread the word on what OVR is? And in fact this presentation today, this PowerPoint, is sort of a combination of all of our ideas and so we've collaborated on the best way to
spread the word. So I just need to acknowledge my co-ERCs for their help in this presentation. So you're probably wondering what the Early Reach Initiative is. So today I'm going to talk about what
is the Early Reach Initiative, talk a little about the OVR mission, and who might be eligible for Early Reach and OVR services. I'll talk about the tie-in with the community. And then at the end,
after a few minutes, I'm going to turn it back to Everett who's going to talk about some of his experience with OVR and talk a little bit about the outcomes. You probably know that OVR counselors
have been involved in school-based transition. Since 1985, OVR has been in a relationship and an agreement with the Department of Education and so we have been working in schools sort of a
coordinated effort for almost 28 years. So we're able to provide OVR services within the school and help students so that they can have a successful and seamless transition from schoolwork to the
world of work. Now really most of the OVR counselors have met with students only in the last year or two years before graduation and sometimes that's just not early enough. Now, you know, in
Pennsylvania, transition really begins at age 14 in schools. Unfortunately, there are not enough OVR counselors to start working with students at age 14. OVR counselors can't be everywhere all the
time. And we've heard of course, "Where's OVR in that transition process?" In order to better serve our customers and meet our mission, OVR is dedicated to providing well-rounded transition services
and thus we've established the Early Reach Initiative. So we kicked off in October of 2013. The purpose of Early Reach is to get out there early, to let people know what OVR services are and support
that seamless transition. And as an Early Reach coordinator, we focus on youth from age 14 and up. We want to provide information. We want to support youth in being good advocates for themselves. We
want to support parents in being good advocates for their children and we want to educate on service that are -- services that are available through OVR and within the community. So we do this, Early
Reach does this is in two ways. Next slide please, Lavinia. We do group outreach services. What we're doing is going out there anywhere and everywhere. So we want to meet with parents. We want to
meet with teachers, with educators, with administrators, with community leaders, and coalition groups. So we want to get the word out in group presentations about what OVR is and the services. This
could even be a workshop for teachers just on OVR. This could be a meeting with parents to explore how to help their child make a career goal. It could be teaching self-advocacy skills to students.
So one part of our work as Early Reach coordinators is group outreach. Next slide, please. The second part of our work is individual outreach. We can meet the students one-on-one as deemed necessary
to get them pre-eligible for OVR. That means we can help them begin to look at some career goals and explore some options. We can teach them how to speak up for themselves. We want you to be a good
advocate for yourself by understanding your disability, knowing your strengths and your challenges, knowing what you need and being able to effectively communicate that to everyone you work with. So
we as Early Reach coordinators can work with individuals to help you do that. We can help you work on self-determination skills. We want to get you ready, get these skills in place so that you're
ready in time to meet with the OVR counselor in your last couple of years at school. It's the goal of the Early Reach Initiative to reach out purposefully, finding youth with disabilities starting at
age 14, finding their parents wherever you are. And this is part of my challenge today, to everybody listening, you know, make sure you take our contact information at the end. Let us know where you
are. If you're part of an organization and you would like us to come speak at your organization, we'd be more than glad to be there or you may have an idea of some place that should hear from us and
so you can certainly contact us with that. So getting back to the individual services, we're going to reach out purposefully. We're going to reach out creatively in schools, in coalitions, in
community groups, after-school programs, wherever you are. And we want to reach out via social media. Let's take a look at the next slide, Lavinia, because this one has our Facebook page. OVR has
created a wonderful Facebook page. So, of course, we want you to like us on Facebook and we want you to link with us on LinkedIn. So if you're part of LinkedIn, certainly go there as well. So let's
look at the next slide, Lavinia. And this is a little bit just about the Early Reach services, something we have touched on. What we can do -- some of the activities we've already been doing is
supporting students in exploring careers. I was just in the classroom the other day with ninth grade students and they're just beginning to explore some different facets. So we spent time on
pacareerzone.org and looked at sort of our interests, you know, what might be a good job fit for us, and it was a chance to begin to explore. That's one thing that we can do. We can educate the
parents. I've got a parent meeting coming up in a couple of weeks and we're going to be talking about what the parents can do to help our youth succeed, helping them be able to be as independent as
possible and that's a really key factor here. We want you to be able to make choices for your future. We want you to be a part of an IEP if you're involved in an IEP plan. We want you to get involved
and know what you want and let us know how we can help. We are also available to help you be that good advocate to help youth as well as adults in the community, advocate for rights and for services
for people with disabilities. We're here to help parents and students connect with the services in the community. So we do, as ERCs, have a strong community knowledge so we can help you connect and
find what you need. An important part of our role as Early Reach coordinators is the community. And as you can see on this slide, it's about -- and I'll, sort of, putting it to the pin board, we want
to meet anybody and everybody in the community that works with somebody with a disability. So we want to help everybody connect with ERCs. Right now we're going to be reaching out two community
organizations. All of the ERCs are doing that contact right now. So we're striving to cultivate and build those very important connections within the community. Lavinia, just on a side note, I've
lost my screen. I don't know if there's anything going on down at your end or not, but I'm going to move forward. Oh, it's back. I'm going to move forward to the next slide. So I wanted to talk just
for a minute or two about OVR because that was part of our goal today is to let you know what is OVR and who we are. It's our mission to assist Pennsylvanians with disabilities to secure and maintain
employment and independence. And as you will see in the next slide, this is about helping people with disabilities to find competitive jobs. What does it mean to have a disability? Well, that's
different for everybody. There is no one disability. There is no right or wrong here. And not all disabilities are visible. What you see in your screen right now is a list of some of the
disabilities, but everything is determined on case by case basis with OVR. But if you have an issue with a physical disability or if you've had a head trauma, there are just a couple of things on the
screen. If you've had issues with drugs and alcohol or if you've had a mental health problem, you might be eligible for our services and we would like to talk to you because it's our goal as OVR to
help secure employment, competitive employment for people with disabilities. So what do we do? Let me show you. Here's how OVR can help. Thanks, Lavinia. OVR is an eligibility program which means our
customers have to meet certain requirements to use our services. The specific reasons for eligibility or ineligibility are different really for every applicant. Generally speaking, a person will be
eligible for OVR if they have a disability which results in a barrier to employment or if the person is definitely interested and motivated to work towards employment and OVR services will help you
prepare for, enter, engage in, and retain employment. We do that through a variety of ways. One is diagnostic. Part of the evaluation with OVR is getting the medical information and testing documents
and if not, we'll send you for more testing if necessary. Our OVR counselors will work with you usually, like I said before, in their last couple of years in school. But our job as Early Reach is to
make sure you're getting the testing up-to-date and you've got all your current documentation so you can begin to work with that counselor to determine if you're eligible for OVR services. We also
offer vocational evaluations to determine what jobs, you know, are best for you and suited for you and provide the counseling to help you make that choice. Once you have been determined eligible,
then we can provide additional training, or education, or medical services and equipment that you might need to meet your job goal. All would be in the goal of supporting you in securing employment.
So you will see on the second slide, there are several steps involved in the OVR process. It can seem overwhelming at first, but it's really pretty simple. You know, you begin first with Early Reach
working towards meeting with an OVR counselor in your last couple of years of high school. The referral, you meet with them, fill out the paperwork, they review all the information and determine if
you're eligible. Then as you work towards setting the job goal, you and your OVR counselor will collaborate on this. The counselor is not going to tell you what your job goal is. You need to work
with them. That's why it's so critical to begin with Early Reach so that you have a sense of where you want to go, and you have that ability to speak up and say what you need, and you've got those
self-determination skills. So as you can see, one thing builds on another. The OVR counselor will also make sure that you are setting a realistic goal. So for example, my little humor is if you want
to be a marine life researcher, you're probably not going to be living in Northeastern PA. So we want to help you find a job that works for where you want to live and one where you can get employed.
We want to help you find those hot jobs where, you know, you can find gainful employment and be successful. So OVR can work with you once you've set your job goal to get the training that you need.
It could be in community-based assessment. It could be job coaching. And you will see on the next slide, your part of setting that job goal. With the Early Reach Initiative, we hope to support you in
your career exploration so you're ready to refine it with the OVR counselor. We call this the IPE, the Individual Plan for Employment. And next slide, please. The counselor will work with you, the
customer, on plans to get the job. We've got to help you set that goal. We don't want you to not succeed. We want you to be successful. So we're going to find that just right goal for you. So who can
be referred? Well, anyone with a disability who might need assistance in preparing for a competitive job. If you're a school student, middle school guidance counselors and special education teachers
or transition counselors, they're aware of the contact information for OVR for your local OVR district office. If you're not in a school setting and you would like to contact OVR directly, the
easiest thing is to really go to the computer and just Google Pennsylvania OVR and get the phone number. I did not put it on the slide. I just realized. However, you can call the central office at
717-787-5244 if you're not sure where your local office is. But most of the time you can ask someone at school or you can just Google and find your local office. So the new Early Reach Initiative is
here to support you and I'm so grateful that I've been invited to talk about this today. We are part of that transition process from school work to the world of work and we know that it's not going
to happen overnight. It is a process. It's not an event. We want to be part of that process as Early Reach coordinators. We're available to collaborate with you with disabilities age 14 and up and
connect with all stakeholders to increase awareness of OVR services. So I'm inviting everyone to reach out to the current Early Reach coordinators. Now right now, as I said before, we're in five
districts offices. However, we'll be adding more throughout 2014. And by the end of the year, every district office of OVR will have an Early Reach coordinator. So you can see, I believe on the next
slide, the names, and numbers, and emails of my colleagues. Kimberly in DuBois, Stacy in Harrisburg, Stephanie in Norristown, Jill and Cameo in Philadelphia, and my contact information is here. I'm
Mary Jane in Wilkes-Barre. So I want to extend a very special thanks to Josh Pittinger for inviting me to talk about the Early Reach Initiative and kudos to Everett for offering these webinars and
including OVR in this. Everett, I'm going to pass it back to you. Josh and I are here. If you want us to answer any questions towards the end, we're here. And thank you so much for this opportunity
and we look forward to hearing from our listeners.
EVERETT DEIBLER: Thank you, Mary Jane. Thank you for all that lovely information about OVR. And Lavinia, that's a great picture of me, just supremely blown up. I am the guy with my mouth open and
we're listening to all that great information about OVR, you might be like, "Wow, that's a lot." And you understand that their goal is to help you achieve your employment goals and to be as
independent as you can possibly be in your life. And I can honestly say now being a young professional and starting to work in the real world I guess, that OVR has been a huge help to me personally.
I guess my story starts when I went from high school to applying the school. OVR did offer me some financial assistance to attend college. I originally attended Edinboro University of Pennsylvania
and I wanted to go to school there to become basically what I thought would be a Dr. Phil and like have my own show with Opera and do all that happy stuff, maybe write some books and do that. And
really throughout my high school life, my mother was my biggest advocate which sounds great. She spoke up for me during IEP meetings and all of that stuff and pretty much took care of things and got
me connected with OVR which was a blessing. But when I got to school and I just thought that I would go to school and things would take care of itself. I hated the school I was at because I didn't do
the proper research and the colleges and universities. And I went to Edinboro which is in Erie and if you've been watching the news and all about this wind chill and winter amazingness we're having
right now, it's really, really, really, really cold and snowing a lot in that area, like feet of snow. And to be honest, my first semester of school, I got really, really depressed and sad about
being there and I wanted to be home. I got home sick and all that sort of stuff. And so I called my parents and my mother, in so many impolite words, basically told me that I shouldn't leave school
there or want to transfer schools because my dream was to go to college and I was doing that, so why would I want to turn around and go somewhere else? And she pretty much told me if I wanted to make
changes in my life and view different things that I had to come up with my own plan. And I believe that she thought that I would just kind of give up and just not do anything, but the person that I
ended up calling was my OVR counselor. And actually, I remember this, I called the 1-800 number that was on a card around like 7:30 at night. And for some reason that evening, she answered the phone.
And this is years ago. I don't -- I don't know why and to this day, she really doesn't know why and I just remember being so emotional about how my parents didn't understand that I needed to do --
that I needed to make changes, I needed to go to a different school. I told them I didn't want to leave college, but I didn't like this place I was at. So my counselor pretty much intervened with my
parents. And we sat down together as a -- as a group and I gave OVR the ability to share my information and with my parents to be able to have communication between me and my parents. Because once
you become eligible for OVR, it's really your choice about where you want to go in your life with your employment goals and things and it's not really up to your parents. So you're going to have to
be able to make some choices. And so that happened and that meeting with my counselor and her supporting me to talk to my parents helped me to change my goals and get me to go to another school to
transfer, to continue my education, and become a professional. So in that sense, I owe OVR a lot personally for my success now. As far as other supports they have given me throughout the years, as
far as financial assistance for college that happened. I use a wheelchair so they helped me get driver's training so that I could actually drive a car to my job and get hand controls installed into
my car. They did not purchase the car for me. They allowed -- they helped me get the adaptive equipment I needed to drive the car. A laptop computer while I was in college, things like that. Things
that you need to be successful. The training you need, the equipment you may need. If you have a learning disability and need a screen reader that will read to you or books on tape, things like that,
OVR can help purchase those things to make sure that you're successful in life after school and in your employment. So that's really the short version of what OVR has done for me and what it's meant.
So, I know that's a lot of information but just know if you're -- if you're a professional, please stay connected with OVR. If you're a youth, go home and tell your family about it and find out how
you can get connected and don't take this stuff lightly because eventually, school will end and you're going to be responsible for your own choices and I can honestly say that when I graduated, I
wasn't ready to make my own choices until my mother said, "Make your own." And that's when I realized I didn't know anything about the services I needed. I didn't know anything, so I had to get
educated real fast. OVR can be a huge bridge to giving you that information to be able to be successful in your life after school. So, to Josh and Mary, I hope I did a good job explaining what you do
and how important that is for people. Is there any questions or comments you guys want to ask me about anything in terms of that or do you want me to share other aspects of it or have other
LAVINIA: And we can open it up now to questions from the audience. There's two ways that you can...
LAVINIA: ...ask question. You can type it in the chat box and we will read your question and have our panelist answer the question or you can raise your hand and I can unmute you and you can answer or
EVERETT DEIBLER: Sure.
ask our panelists the questions. So if you have any questions about OVR services or Everett's experience with OVR, please ask them now. This is a great time to do that.
EVERETT DEIBLER: And Lavinia, if there's not -- if there's not any other questions, I do have other things I want to say too but I just want to see if there is.
LAVINIA: Okay. I do have one question here. And that question is, if there wasn't an Early Reach coordinator on the list that was provided, do -- can -- what do we do? So I think what they're -- what
they're asking, Mary Jane, maybe you can answer this. If they're in an area where the Early Reach coordinator is not listed yet, what -- where do they call?
MARY JANE SARAS: That is a good question. And I believe the best thing would be for them to call the central office because they are, of course, the ones that are aware of which district offices will
next be getting Early Reach coordinators and it should be soon. Most of the offices will be getting one in the next couple of months, you know, I don't want to give a definite date because we're not
positively sure. Can you put up the central office phone number, Lavinia, somewhere?
LAVINIA: Sure. Let me do that. And also while I'm doing that, if you want to think about this question, Mary Jane, we have, does OVR provide any services for students considering a college program for
people with intellectual disabilities?
MARY JANE SARAS: Yes, definitely. And that's where they -- it depends on what grade they're in. If you're younger, 14, 15, 16, you know, they can reach out to the Early Reach coordinator, you know, so
that we can talk about what some of the career plans are, what the goals are, begin to work even with their parents just to look at what the plans are so we can get everything in place so they will
be ready to meet with the OVR counselor who will determine them eligible to get services to get them to college. Because that is part of OVR services, to help prepare you for employment and that
means whether it's a trade school or Hiram G. Andrews, which is our Pennsylvania Career Technical School at the Hiram G. Andrews Center in Johnstown, whether it's going on to college, yes, OVR is --
definitely would be interested in speaking with them. Uh-hmm.
JOSH PITTINGER: For those folks at this point that do not have an Early Reach coordinator contact in their area, OVR should be -- have contact in every school district so if they can get a hold of the
central office number, they can let them know who to contact in this for that office, and then they can at least get a contact person because I think one of the key things is -- during transition is
just knowing those key individuals in your area that you can bounce the ends off and say, "Hey, this is the direction I think I want to go." And they'll give you feedback on whether that's a path
that you should go down or maybe tweak that a little bit and they can give you ideas that you might not have thought of before, so the earlier you can make those connections to those individuals, the
more time you'll have to go on the right path.
LAVINIA: Great. Thank you. We have another question from the [inaudible] area. Where can we find information to share with parents and students to show them that you don't have to have a physical
disability or blindness to access OVR services? And that is more comprehensive individuals with different types of disabilities. So do we have anything that we can physically give them?
JOSH PITTINGER: There are links on our Facebook page that have information and we also have information on our website. So they can access that as well.
LAVINIA: So moving into the technology more so, really using that brand new Facebook page and then accessing OVR's main web page?
JOSH PITTINGER: Yes. And then at any time if you want to call the district office, they can send information out to individuals on our services as well.
MARY JANE SARAS: Lavinia, this is Mary Jane. I think that does bring up a good point. Just as a reference for the people on the PowerPoint, you know, there was the one slide that said, "Not all
disabilities are visible." And so that's sort of a beginning list of some of the just things that we consider disabilities. But that's a good question and I'm glad people are thinking in those terms,
you know, when you think of disability, you don't want to go to just one thought of a physical disability. There are so many things that can be a limitation in some areas of life. So that was a good
question. Thank you for asking that.
LAVINIA: And I'm going to put the OVR central office number up in the chat box because that has been mentioned a few times. So Mary Jane, if you can tell me that again. I heard it's 717...
MARY JANE SARAS: 787-5244.
LAVINIA: Great. So the new folks who came have that number if you need it. Any other questions that we can address?
EVERETT DEIBLER: While you're waiting, Lavinia, I did think of something else that I wanted to -- I wanted to share about the OVR experience and pieces of advice that I would give for youth once they
do make contact, would definitely be to stay engaged with your counselor. There's a lot of people with disabilities in Pennsylvania that are accessing OVR services and one of the things they're going
to ask you to do is take ownership of what your goals are and what you want to do. They're not going to come, chase you down and make sure you did this or did that or made the phone calls you're
supposed to or, you know, got that job interview or whatever. They're not going to do that. You got to make sure that you stay on top of things. When they send you paperwork to fill out about your
goals and things that you want to do and when your next meeting is, you really want to make sure you stay on top of that. That goesfor almost everything you're doing as you're making this transition.
Josh talked about getting in contact with those key people. You want to make sure that you keep a list of those people, where they can be reached, and making sure that you keep yourself in touch with
what's going on and don't let yourself get lazy because it's easy to do that when you're deciding your own fate, if -- you can decide, "Am I going to play video games today or go do this?" You guys
have to be responsible and focus in on what you need to do for your future. So, is there any other questions, Lavinia?
LAVINIA: There are. Great points...
EVERETT DEIBLER: Sure.
LAVINIA: ...in taking action. We do have a few more questions. We have a question here from Holly. If you want to go on to school and need special tools like carpentry tools or cooking tools, can OVR
help fund this? Can OVR help pay for some of the college class like if you want to go, for example, if you wanted to go to culinary school or some type of trade school?
JOSH PITTINGER: In terms of possibility, everything is a case by case basis, but those are definitely questions that they would want to post to their individual OVR counselor.
LAVINIA: Thanks, Josh. I think that's a good point that it is very individualized in working with each student or each consumer. Another question is, what is OVR's relationship or role with local
technical schools for high school students? So do they work in the -- in the technical schools that are associated with districts?
JOSH PITTINGER: Yes. We try to work with as many different organizations as possible, individuals that need our assistance, we're going to be there for them. So it doesn't matter what type of school
they're in, we'll be able to access to them at any place.
LAVINIA: Okay. I did have one other question come in. This is one is, does OVR have a document that includes all of the postsecondary education programs including vocational programs in Pennsylvania?
JOSH PITTINGER: I'm not sure of a document per se that helps out with that, but we do have a choices program, it's a computer program that OVR counselors can sit down with the transition student and
they can type in whatever major they're thinking about and it'll bring up every school in Pennsylvania that offers that major. So we can try to narrow down school choices based on that and those
types of papers could be printed out at that time so that is something that is available as well.
MARY JANE SARAS: Lavinia, it's Mary Jane. I have a slide with some resources.
MARY JANE SARAS: But it's probably the next slide after the one you're on now possibly. It says website resource list.
LAVINIA: Great. It's great we got this.
MARY JANE SARAS: Yes. I don't want to process it but I'm almost positive that the PA Career Zone, when you go on there, there's a different categories, explore resources, grow, decide. I think there's
one that does, it can link somewhere on there to a list of all the schools in Pennsylvania. Getting them there, if someone is interested, focus more on training college whether it's, you know,
associate degree or bachelor's degree after high school. Getting Them There is an excellent resource as well as Going to College, and just to sort of iterate what Everett said, yes, we want our
customers to do a lot of work themselves, to show that they are motivated and by beginning early to do some of this research and explore different career options that is certainly encouraged and we
want to provide you the resources to do that.
LAVINIA: Okay. One more question. This sounds like it's a kind of a troubleshooting question. I contacted my local OVR office but never heard from anybody, what can I do next?
JOSH PITTINGER: The biggest is communication and if you're not getting the communication back that you're desiring, call back and ask to speak with a supervisor and just state what the issues are
because if you're not getting the communication back that you think you should be and you don't take that next step, nothing is going to be done about it, so it's all about being proactive.
LAVINIA: Wonderful. I'm so impressed of how many wonderful questions that there were and very interactive, engaged audience today. Is there anything that the panelists would like to include at this
point before we close?
MARY JANE SARAS: This is Mary Jane. I just want to thank everybody again for the opportunity to share the Early Reach Initiative and, of course, thank the [inaudible] of including this in the realm of
OVR services. I do want to ask all of our attendees, reach out to us. It goes both ways. Just sort of reiterating what Josh said about communication, it's definitely a two-way street. You've got our
contact information. We'd love to hear from you as well. And so please reach out to us and we would be more than glad to work with you.
EVERETT DEIBLER: Well, and thank you to OVR for supporting PYLN and the YSI project and this webinar. And PYLN also has a Facebook page that we put. We put stuff out there all the time. There's a
monthly videos that come out that are informational. There's all kinds of stuff that's going to be happening throughout the rest of the year so stay connected. Thanks again to OVR and if there's no
more questions, I guess that's a wrap, right, Lavinia?
LAVINIA: Sorry, Everett, I was just typing. I'm going to put in my email address and telephone number in as well. So, if your question wasn't answered today, I'm going to leave it up on the screen for
a few minutes. Please put in -- answer in the chat box, put your name, your phone number, your best place to contact you and I will connect you with the resource that will best serve you. So thank
you, folks, for tuning in. I appreciate this. This is a valuable information. I appreciate OVR staff and Everett being with us today. Again, if a question wasn't answered, please make sure that you
type it in the chat box or take down my contact information and we will be sure to connect to the resources for you. Okay. That's it.
MARY JANE SARAS: Thank you, everybody.
EVERETT DEIBLER: Thank you so much.
JOSH PITTINGER: Thank you. Good job.
MARY JANE SARAS: Thank you. Thanks for taking those questions.
JOSH PITTINGER: Oh, no problem.
MARY JANE SARAS: [inaudible] I don't know...
JOSH PITTINGER: Yeah.
MARY JANE SARAS: ...what if they don't like the answer. I know what I would say but I don't know what...
JOSH PITTINGER: Yeah, a lot of those was [inaudible] like that was just to reiterate to reach out for the district office because even though we do have general guidelines [inaudible]