Three students of the Asperger Initiative at Mercyhurst University (AIM) will travel to Pittsburgh on Thursday, Oct. 17, to participate in the first Disability Mentoring Day at PNC Financial Services, an initiative of The Campaign for Disability Employment. October is Disability Employment Awareness Month.
The students are Dan Pietrasiewicz, a computer science major; Michael Monaco, a math major; and Ryan Little, an accounting major. They are being accompanied by Dianne Rogers, director of Mercyhurst’s Learning Differences Program.
While in Pittsburgh, the students will gain exposure to the world of work and shadow employees of PNC Bank and US Steel.
The theme for this year’s awareness campaign is “Because We are EQUAL to the Task," which reflects the reality that people with disabilities have the education, training, experience and desire to be successful in the workplace.
Long a leader in educating students with disabilities and a pioneer in establishing a higher education model for young people with high-functioning autism, Mercyhurst is well aware of the importance of increasing the employability of its AIM students, said Rogers, who traveled to Pittsburgh three times in 2012 to provide training to PNC’s employees in laying the groundwork for including students with autism in the vocational mentoring initiative.
“Getting started, our primary goal was to create a welcoming climate on campus so that students with autism could develop their academic and social skills,” Rogers said. “As we moved forward in preparing them for the world of work, we recognized that employers also needed educating as to the benefits of hiring young people with autism.”
Expenses for the trip are being paid through an AIM Career Exploration endowment established by Dave and Dorothy Pusateri. Their son, Nick, is the first graduate of the AIM program at Mercyhurst. Currently, he is completing his master’s degree in library science at Indiana University. Rogers acknowledged that the Office for Vocational Rehabilitation, which has partnered with Mercyhurst since AIM’s beginning in 2007, also assisted in the funding.
Meanwhile, the Campaign for Disability Employment is an effort to promote positive employment outcomes for people with disabilities by encouraging employers and others to recognize the value and talent they bring to the workplace.
For more information about Mercyhurst’s Learning Differences Program, contact Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on what you can do to help create employment opportunities for people with disabilities, visit the campaign website at http://www.whatcanyoudocampaign.org/index.php.