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Improving outcomes in school, work, and life for young New Yorkers with disabilities

Shanya,* who’s 19 and from Queens, loves cooking and wants to become a chef. She’s a highly motivated worker, but when her learning disability met with an employer who didn’t help her succeed, she lost her job. That’s when she joined INCLUDEnyc’s Project Possibility.

INCLUDEnyc seeks to help ensure that young people with disabilities in New York City have the tools they need to succeed in school, at work, and beyond through a wide range of programming.

Project Possibility, for instance, offers intensive individualized guidance as youths identify and pursue employment and education opportunities that match their interests, then make concrete action plans that can get them there. Over the last year, 101 young people made a postsecondary transition plan through Project Possibility. For Shanya, this process led to her acceptance into Queens Connect, a vocational program that offers culinary training, where she now enthusiastically and confidently pursuing her studies.

In all, INCLUDEnyc served 14,300 young people like Shanya, caregivers, and professionals over the past year, work for which the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) has been proud to provide support. This work includes fielding 3,336 help line requests, holding 560 workshops attended by 9,086 parents and professionals, serving 137 young people through the High School Launch program operating within five partner NYC public schools, engaging 566 parents in support groups, and more.

INCLUDEnyc’s Parent Leadership Advocacy Network (PLAN), for instance, was created to help parents—primarily those from low-income and immigrant communities where accessing the services their children with disabilities need can be a challenge—build advocacy skills and knowledge of the educational and legal landscape. Following an appointment by the mayor, one PLAN parent is bringing her perspective and her voice to the City’s Panel for Educational Policy.

“I spent the better part of this year indulging in hopelessness,” said Jeanna, another PLAN parent. “It was a difficult time in our household. Services and communication with my son's school were rapidly deteriorating. I felt knocked down, but am back up and fighting the good fight. This community of parents is a gift.”

That “good fight” remains unfortunately necessary when gaping disparities in educational outcomes for students with and without disabilities persist. In 2022, 61% of New York City high school students with disabilities graduated in four years, as compared to 84% of students without disabilities.

But INCLUDEnyc provides a model for what empowering young people, parents, and professionals to address this situation effectively can look like. As one parent who has worked with the nonprofit says, “INCLUDEnyc is a life-changer for parents. It should be duplicated across the country.”


*Name changed for privacy.