You may be familiar with YC’s adapted sports and recreational programs for children and teens, but a newer initiative is offering opportunities for alumni to come to YC during the day for specific training in job skills and career advice, academic assistance, fitness & nutrition, and other important life skills. This program is called RISE, Realizing Independence & Self Efficacy.
Meet Josh Zdanowicz, a YC participant since the age of 4 and now an active member of the RISE program at 24. Josh is employed as a Habilitation Specialist Assistant at United Cerebral Palsy in Westlake.
When you heard about the RISE program, why did you sign up for it?
I signed up for it because I wanted to learn how to be more independent and self-sufficient.
Was there a specific thing that you thought you needed to learn?
How to find and use as many resources as possible in terms of financial or community services.
What are your career goals?
My number one goal has always been to become a video game programmer. They basically write all of the coding for the games that allow people to play them.
What are you doing now that could possibly help with that, or that’s related to your career?
Actually just within the last month or so I found a free website that basically has interactive courses on how to write specific types of code because there’s all different kinds, like ones that translate into web pages or more of interactive stuff that people use to make apps and games, so it’s been really interesting. It’s called codeacademy.com and I heard about it on the news.
What kind of time commitment does the stuff RISE asks you to do take or require?
It doesn’t take too long. Sometimes certain things end up taking a little bit longer than others but I typically have tasks completed by a scheduled appointment.
About how often do you meet with RISE?
Once every two weeks
Summarize what YELP/RISE has given you as a person transitioning from YC services.
I am a lot more confident than I was because before I started, in terms of trying to handle all aspects of my life on my own, it was tough but now I’m as independent as possible, which I can definitely say has not always been the case.
Can you describe YELP/RISE to someone who doesn’t know about it?
I would say that they are extremely good at helping potential participants learn how to become as independent as possible and you don’t feel pressure to do everything as perfectly which is extremely helpful.
What have you done specifically within RISE to help you in your career goals?
They have taught me to not be afraid of looking up things and develop my research skills. I used to get so overwhelmed anytime I tried to look up anything, especially if it was schoolwork related, which was definitely helpful.
What are you doing currently outside of RISE to hone your skills? What is your current job?
Currently for a job I am working at United Cerebral Palsy in Westlake. I do daily data entry of client information. This can be anything from attendance to keeping track of all of their daily activities and every client also has a specific set of goals that they work on every month and that gets reflected as an average every year.
Has there been anything from your work experience that’s helped you with your RISE goals?
They have because it has taught me how to function independently in a work environment.
Has being part of YC impacted your work?
I’m definitely not shy about talking to people so that definitely helps. It makes things easier. I actually share an office with two other people so that’s been interesting because I had never had that kind of experience before and the social skills I picked up through YC have definitely helped make things easier.
Looking back on YC as a whole, how do you think YC helps prepare children with physical disabilities transition to being independent adults?
YC has honestly changed my life in so many huge ways. I think the biggest thing is it taught me that just because you have a disability it doesn’t mean that you’re incapable of doing the things that somebody who isn’t disabled are able to experience on a daily basis. I mean, even if it’s as simple as playing a sport, everybody here just has to figure out a different way of doing things, but it doesn’t mean they’re unable to, and that has honestly been huge for me.
Who was your favorite volunteer and what did interacting with the volunteers do for you?
I’m not going to pick a specific person because there’s, like, thirty I could name easily, but in terms of interaction I would say that it honestly helped me feel like I didn’t even have a disability just because I have always been treated just like everybody else. I mean, the only thing that’s really different about me than any of the other volunteers or staff I’ve worked with over the years is that I just so happen to have a chair. I just can’t imagine not being a part of this organization ‘cuz it’s just so incredible.