What is an Empowerment Lab?
Integrate for Good’s innovative programs employ a strengths-based approach to professional and interpersonal development for people of all abilities. Empowerment Lab, having just celebrated its fifth cohort of graduates, is no exception.
Empowerment Lab is an initiative designed for transition-age high school students aimed at identifying their unique passions, employable skills, and work environment preferences.
The culmination of Empowerment Lab is marked by the creation of a carefully curated digital portfolio, which uses photography and videography to highlight facets of each student which are often uncaptured by a traditional paper resume. The testimonies of the student’s advocates (teachers, advisors, coaches, etc.) and the student themself included in these portfolios make them powerful tools for self-advocacy.
Why does our work matter?
Historically, the value of neurodiverse talent in the workplace has been overlooked. Not to mention, modern hiring processes are not conducive to the needs of people of all abilities who may require modified working environments to perform at their best.
As DEI becomes an increasing priority to corporations and local businesses, we aim to ensure that disability, which we view as a valued kind of diversity, has a seat at the table.
Why does it work?
Given people with disabilities are labeled as “special” from a very young age, many are conditioned to believe these individuals should be recipients of service from others. The primary focus of Empowerment Lab is to overcome this stigma, by encouraging and guiding program participants to identify their passions and innate leadership potential.
The research-based curriculum of Empowerment Lab gives students a pathway to finding meaningful, paid employment through instruction, collaboration, and portfolio development.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected Empowerment Lab?
We believe there is no stronger tool for community connection than face-to-face interaction, but the challenges posed by COVID-19 restrictions necessitated the creation of an online Empowerment Lab program. While we hope to continue Empowerment Lab as an on-site program in local schools, the adaptation of the Empowerment Lab curriculum to a virtual format has shown us a promising way in which our curriculum can be shared with schools in other geographic jurisdictions and even other populations seeking access to employment.