Let’s Work! California: Our Stories, Our Voices

The Center for Advancing Policy on Employment for Youth (CAPE-Youth)—which is managed by CSG under a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy—seeks to improve employment outcomes for youth and young adults with disabilities by helping states build capacity in their youth service delivery and workforce systems. As part of this, we also showcase the promise of young leaders whose efforts are already helping build a more inclusive future workforce.

Recently, five of these young leaders were engaged by Let’s Work! California and shared their experiences working together on an important video project. Specifically, they assisted in creating a guide and video series about networking in order to educate other young adults with disabilities during the transition from school to work.

Below are some of their thoughts along with links to their projects.

Derrek Freitas

Derrek recorded a YouTube video and aided in creating the Networking Guide. By sharing his story for Let’s Work! CA, he says he learned he already had job skills and significant experience. He met many amazing people who helped prepare him for his next job and career. He wanted to share his story to encourage others and to show people who supported him over the years that he has become a positive role model in his community.

My Story for Networking and Meeting People

In this video, Derrek shares his story of networking with different individuals to find work. He gives his name and describes his education, skills, abilities, volunteer history, work experience and career goals. He also shows how to thank people for their help, which is an important part of networking! Derrek says, “Just because you have a disability doesn’t mean you can’t succeed in life!”

PJ Swan

PJ worked with the Let’s Work! team, setting up Zoom meetings and following up with everyone on the team.

She learned how to create a YouTube video with captioning. She wanted to share her story to let everyone to know what she had gone through, what she has done and where she works. She also wanted to thank her family and mentors for helping her learn to share her story. She started sharing her story in Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings and hasn’t stopped sharing her story since!

PJ loves working as a Job Coach with young adults because she shows them how to use skills she learned, and she has fun with them. She knows everyone can work, and says, “Let’s Work!”

Confidence Through Storytelling

In this video, PJ shares her school to work transition story. Once a Lodi school district student, PJ now has a full-time position as a Job Coach Assistant for the Lodi Unified School District. She shares how self-advocacy and storytelling helped her along the way.

Sean Keilberg-Tucker

Sean liked working on the Let’s Work! team, helping the members be more confident recording videos. In time, he learned how to tell his story, record his video and was able to help other team members do the same. He also posted Let’s Work! information on his social media accounts, which was new for him.

Sean encourages others to tell their own story in order to meet people and work too. He says, “Maybe one day you can create your own YouTube videos, too!”

Networking Tips & Storytelling Tips

In these videos, Sean shares networking and storytelling tips. Learn about networking and storytelling and get tips on how you can tell your own story to new people you meet to talk to about work. 

Sean Spence

The number one thing Sean learned working on the Let’s Work! project is that no matter how hopeless things get, somebody is always there to support him. Let’s Work! connected him to people who care and showed him there is always a chance that things will get better. He says, “people think we are alone, but we are not alone. There are always people there—we just need to find them.”

Sean shared his story for other people in the world like him that are going through similar issues. He wanted to help others to reduce the struggle and strain that he was experiencing. For Sean, this experience was a chance to help others.

“No matter how isolated you are or how hopeless you might feel, always have a dream and a goal to help you look ahead,” Sean says. “Being able to work provides the opportunities we need and desire to achieve what we want in life. Never stop trying to accomplish what you want in work, your career and your life!”

Planning for Success in Networking and Life

In this video, Sean shares recommendations on using networking circles to identify individuals who can help achieve work goals. Sean used the Let’s Work! CA Networking Activity Guide to help identify new individuals to meet and talks about his experience creating networking circles and making new connections.

Kayla Smit

Kayla joined the team to help review the activities in the “Follow-up” section of the Networking Guide. She was nervous but learned how to record a YouTube video and enjoyed working with the other team members in Zoom meetings. She admitted she was out of her comfort zone but pushed through her fear to share her experiences in order to help other people do the same! She also learned how to prepare questions and use those questions in re-connecting with individuals she had met previously.

Staying in Touch with Your Network

In this video, Kayla shares her experiences practicing ways to stay in touch with people—her network connections. After graduating from high school, Kayla decided to take some classes and worked with the Let’s Work! CA Networking Team. She followed-up with one of her teachers and asked several questions. She shares the questions she asked and what she was able to learn!

About Let’s Work! California

Let’s Work! is a video-based initiative coordinated by the California Transition Alliance and funded by the California State Council on Developmental Disabilities Council as part of its mission to advocate, promote and implement policies and practices that achieve self-determination, independence, productivity and inclusion in all aspects of community life for Californians with I/DDs and their families. To access these and Let’s Work! CA’s other instructional videos, along with a feature documentary created by Inclusion Films, please visit the Let’s Work! YouTube channel at youtube.com/letsworkca. The documentary premiered in November 2020.