Miranda: Building Skills and Experience while in High School Helps Lead to Career Goals



Miranda is in her early 20s and describes herself as kind, confident, a hard worker, and multilingual. Her family and service providers describe her as independent and motivated to lead a self-determined life. She has a part-time job working at Marshall’s as a merchandise associate and volunteers at a local senior center and major medical center in the Boston area. Miranda also loves creating visual art; her artwork was exhibited in the Diversity through Arts show at a gallery in Watertown, MA and she plans to participate in the future art shows at the same gallery. She enjoys hanging out with her friends and doing outdoor activities. Through her many activities and interests, Miranda has acquired information and skills to build her resume and reach her goal of a career in an office setting or the medical field.

What’s Important

As a teenager, Miranda volunteered doing outdoor activities and service projects with her local Boys and Girls Club and with Girl Scouts. She also started developing her employment skills while still in high school. She enrolled in the Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative (MAICEI), a program that allowed her to take community college classes while in high school. This helped her acquire excellent Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop skills.

Miranda also received pre-employment transition services (Pre-ETS) funded by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) and administered by Partners for Youth with Disabilities (PYD) and Vinfen. These services included career readiness classes on writing resumes, interviewing, and learning workplace communication and self-advocacy skills. She also completed a Pharmacy Technician Training Course through the MRC. “Miranda has signed up for anything that will help her with her career,” explained the PYD program manager. Another staff member corroborated this by noting, “she's passionate about learning and building her skills.”

Miranda continued to build her resume and gain experience in office settings through internships and volunteering. She completed several unpaid internships, including working for a year at the Massachusetts State Archives doing data entry and working at the Cambridge Health Alliance. Miranda volunteered at a senior center doing administrative tasks such as data entry, compiling their newsletter, and creating check-in sheets. With funding from the Department of Development Services (DDS), Miranda worked with a community resource specialist (CRS) to obtain paid employment.

What Happened

For nearly three years, Miranda has worked part time at a TJX/Marshalls store near her home. She processes bags, clothes, shoes, and perfume and maintains fitting rooms. Miranda has also retained the volunteer position at the senior center and has recently begun an internship at an office at a major medical center. Every week, her CRS checks in with her to make sure things are going well at work and at her internship and volunteer positions.

The CRS supports Miranda with workplace communication and completing tasks and helps her find other tasks she could take on to work more hours. The CRS and Miranda’s mom also support her to aspire toward working in the medical field. Recently, with their support, Miranda earned a certificate in medical office administration, billing, and coding.

Currently, Miranda is participating in the Young Adult Leader Fellowship at the Massachusetts Advocates for Children. Through this fellowship opportunity, Miranda is spending the year working in their office and learning how to advocate for children with disabilities. Miranda’s participation in PYD has also led to meaningful participation in community and social events and volunteer opportunities through Empowering People for Inclusive Communities (EPIC), a community service and leadership development organization connected to PYD. Her strong participation with EPIC led to her nomination as one of EPIC’s three service leaders in Boston for 2022–2023.

Lessons Learned

  • Concurrent high school and college enrollment programs matter. Partnerships between secondary and postsecondary education institutions provide an important opportunity for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities to develop occupational credentials as well as employment skills and experience while still in high school.
  • Youth access to vocational rehabilitation services and counseling expands opportunities. Pre-ETS and traditional vocational rehabilitation counseling services help youth to expand their resumes through early paid employment experiences, access additional opportunities for credentials, offer opportunities for internships, and support planning for a long-term career.
  • It is important to engage in extracurricular activities. Hobbies, service groups, self-advocacy groups, and other extracurricular activities each provide opportunities for youth to learn and advocate about themselves and explore their passions.