UTEP Students Help Job Seekers With Disabilities

By Laura L. Acosta

UTEP News Service

High school students with disabilities eager to find jobs polished their resumes and interview skills with help from students in the Master of Rehabilitation Counseling (MRC) program at The University of Texas at El Paso.

UTEP graduate students Rain Arredondo, Augustin Barajas, Felicia Patrick and Victoria Ramirez advised high school students how to dress for success, impress potential employers and the do’s and don’ts of résumé writing during the El Paso Del Norte Youth Leadership Forum (YLF) on Oct. 26. Thirty-five high school students with disabilities spent a recent Saturday afternoon at UTEP as part of the El Paso Del Norte Youth Leadership Forum, where they received job-seeking advice from students in the Master of Rehabilitation Counseling program. Photo courtesy of Rick Razo. Thirty-five high school students with disabilities spent a recent Saturday afternoon at UTEP as part of the El Paso Del Norte Youth Leadership Forum, where they received job-seeking advice from students in the Master of Rehabilitation Counseling program. Photo courtesy of Rick Razo.

“The YLF is an amazing program that gives participants the right tools and confidence to be a successful person, despite any disability they might have,” said Ramirez, who graduated from UTEP’s kinesiology program in May. “I hope our presentation taught them to focus on their abilities and see all their potential achievements.”

Thirty-five students ages 16-22 with a range of disabilities such as blindness, mobility problems and learning disorders, attended the forum to learn about leadership, advocacy and goal setting.

Organized by the Region 19 Education Service Center, the forum is a three-day weekend event where students, also known as delegates, learn about resources to help them succeed in the community.

YLF delegates spent Saturday afternoon in UTEP’s Union Building East. They attended sessions about “Going to College,” where they learned about the assistive technology and services that are available to them through the UTEP Center for Accommodations and Support Services and the El Paso Community College Center for Students with Disabilities.

Delegates also explored personal leadership and career plans with UTEP’s MRC students, who benefited from the hands-on experience they received by working with young people with disabilities, said Rick Razo, YLF director.

“The YLF weekend is about advocacy and empowerment,” Razo said. “The UTEP students have the opportunity to see young people who have dreams and goals and need the opportunity to learn about themselves and resources in the community to help them. We believe that students from UTEP leave the forum with a greater appreciation and expectations for young people with disabilities.”

Graduates from the two-and-a-half-year MRC program in the College of Health Sciences serve people with disabilities by helping them achieve their personal, career and independent living goals through rehabilitation counseling.

“The Youth Leadership Forum provided MRC students direct experience in educating and empowering these delegates,” said Barbara Schoen, Ph.D., MRC program director. “It also gave MRC students an opportunity to volunteer their time helping others, which is strongly encouraged in our program and in the College of Health Sciences.”

MRC students organized activities to help delegates make a good impression at their next job interview.

Delegates were shown pictures of clothing items that were suitable for job interviews or different employment settings. MRC students also helped delegates write their résumés using a template to list achievements, skills and traits. Delegates discussed videos that depicted a “good interview” versus a “bad interview” and talked about questions that could be asked by a potential employer.

Barajas is the owner and director of Ready & Able, a company that works with the Department of Rehabilitation Services to help people with disabilities find jobs.

The job-hunting advice he gave to delegates is the same advice he gives to people who seek his professional services.  

“Make the best impression and sell yourself as genuine and as hard working as you can be,” Barajas said. “Everybody will know and understand you and the value that you bring. It’s a plain and simple truth everyone can use to help themselves to create their potential in the workforce.” 

For information about the Master of Rehabilitation Counseling program, visit chs.utep.edu/mrc/.