Youth center’s opening on campus builds up ties with GW

Jessie MacKinnon is chief operating officer for the National Youth Transitions Center, which partners with the Graduate School of Education and Human Development to help young people with disabilities, chronic illnesses and social or health problems. Elise Apelian | Hatchet Staff Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Sara Amrozowicz.

When Bridget Green was diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of 13, her family wished they knew where to turn for guidance.

That experience steered the third-year doctoral student toward a career connecting disabled individuals with support resources.

Green, a student and research assistant in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, helps others find advice through the online HEATH Resource Center – an information and support base for young people with disabilities, chronic illnesses and social or health problems. It is the official website for information from the National Youth Transitions Center, which moved to 2013 G St. in November and hosted disabled students for a campus visit last week.

“I remember when I was first diagnosed, my family felt like the whole world stopped and we didn’t have a place to go,” she said. “[The resource center] really provides families as a whole where to go,” Green said. “And I showed my mom this and she said repeatedly, ‘I wish I had something like this’ for when I was diagnosed.”

The National Youth Transitions Center works with GSEHD’s Career Investigations for Transitioning Youth program, designed to smooth the entrance of intellectually disabled high school students from Anacostia into the workforce. The initiative to bring disabled students to campus every Thursday began five years ago with funding support from the HSC Foundation, bringing the partnership full-circle with the center’s new on-campus home.

Professor of special education and disability studies Juliana Taymans, who works with the transition program for high school students, said last Thursday’s visit for disabled students included interviews with staff members and a technology lesson.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for those of us interested in youth transition to have them practically on campus,” Taymans said. “They’re just such great colleagues and they do so much to support a youth disabilities,” she said, later adding, “It’s a place for us to be proud of that it’s almost on campus.”

She added that the center’s new site provides to a learning opportunity for graduate and undergraduate students to gain practical experience while learning about disability studies and special education.

Jessie MacKinnon, chief operating officer for the National Youth Transitions Center, said the center has conducted a number of research projects and gathered resources through GW as well as other colleges. She said the location on campus offers a location to train students who have never before visited universities.

“They spent the day, some of the kids said this is the best day of my life. It really does show them that they can have a good future,” MacKinnon said.

– Priya Anand contributed to this report.

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