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The siren call of your alma mater?

College homecoming has a different look due to the languishing economy. These days, college career counselors see an influx of demographically different graduates.

Recession and "recovery" has sent many laid-off or unemployed college grads back to their alma maters for job-placement services, resume tweaks, or interview-skill critiques. Some smaller schools have augmented professional training and networking for older alumni.

The U.S. Dept. of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) statistics show the percentage of people with disabilities in the work force is 22.5 versus 70.2 for those who are able-bodied.

Which schools are doing what to help former grads now disabled, or injured military members?

Administrators at the University of North Florida (UNF, Jacksonville) see an influx. UNF's Military and Veterans Resource Center (MVRC) helps students navigate admission, enrollment, and financial aid. It's the primary campus advocate to ensure their unique needs are met. MVRC joins with school services--i.e., disability accommodations, academic advising, tutoring, counseling, veteran programming, benefits data, and assistance (financial/medical), plus facilitating referral to state and federal resources.

MVRC aims to ensure military and veteran students successfully make the transition to campus life and are assisted in sustaining their progress toward earning their academic degree. MVRC will provide peer support, mentoring, and social networking. The center includes a student computer resource room, group study area, and a reception area in which veteran students can relax. A private office is available for veteran students and their families to meet with counselors.

The center is the result of a grant from the Florida BRATVE Fund at the Community Foundation in Jacksonville, and UNF was recognized as a Military Friendly School by G.I. Jobs and Military Advanced Education magazines. They help military and veteran students determine which schools offer them the most benefits.

Meanwhile, surveys rank the University of Illinois/ Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) very high for comprehensive disability support. Services it cites include accessible buses; independent living for those requiring respiratory devices and/or personal care; rehabilitation fraternity; study abroad program for disabled students; and collegiate wheelchair basketball for men and women, with varsity letters awarded.

Staffers confirm references, conduct background checks, and train personal-care aides, but students do interviewing/hiring for the transitional disability management program. UIUC services cover career counseling, scholarships, tutoring, basic wheelchair maintenance, lift buses, private rooms with semi-private bathrooms, meal assistance, 24-hour emergency personal assistance, computer lab, emergency call system in all rooms, and housekeeping maintenance.

Years ago Edinboro University (Edinboro, Penn., offered services to students with visual impairments. According to one staff member, "It just snowballed."

Edinboro, about 20 miles from Lake Erie, offers life-skills training with a model apartment and provides personal-care services in the dormitories.

Students have private rooms and aides on call 24/7. Lift vans help wheelchair users combat the area's heavy snow season and get to class on time.

Perhaps the best service is advice from Tig Gilliam, chief executive officer, Adecco Group North America, a work-force solutions company. He tags priority one this way: "Build your skills and experiences (for) two reasons: The longer you're jobless, the greater the 'atrophy' and employers wonder if something's 'wrong.'"

Stable jobs are going to temporary or project workers--people employers have seen doing the job.

Gilliam says, "There's no denying the difficulty Americans are having in finding work, but giving in and giving up is a losing strategy."

Contributor: Herb Drill.

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Title Annotation:from 9 to 5
Author:Drill, Herb
Publication:PN - Paraplegia News
Date:Feb 1, 2011
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