CLEAR PATH PROGRAM
...to lift artificial weights from all shoulders; to clear the paths of laudable pursuit; to afford all an unfettered start, and a fair chance in the race of life.
President Abraham Lincoln, first annual message to Congress
1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.
The City of Phoenix Parks, Recreation and Library Department River Rampage Program is a white water rafting adventure program for young people with significant disabilities and for their non-disabled peers. When created, one program goal was to give participants job experience through volunteer service and training. Toward this end, River Rampage teens were required to perform 40-80 hours of community service to earn a position on a trip. About 20 of the 100 River Rampage teens were offered permanent part-time positions as a result of their volunteer work; however, only one of those teens had a disability. The discrepancy in available opportunities was obvious. As a leading employer of young people, the City of Phoenix committed to identify and improve employment opportunities for teens and young adults with disabilities.
In response, the department introduced Clear Path, a national model job internship program for young adults with disabilities. The first program of its kind started within the structure of a municipality, Clear Path serves young adults with physical or cognitive disabilities or special medical needs. The primary program goals are to prepare participants to effectively compete for entry-level positions in the Phoenix community and to develop a network of disabilities advocates among City of Phoenix staff. Clear Path is currently completing the second year of a three-year, $600,000 U.S. Department of Education grant.
Clear Path interns receive minimum wage for 160 hours of work experience performed side-by-side with a City of Phoenix volunteer staff and 40 hours of work maturity skills training. Two full-time Clear Path staffs provide onsite support and training to the intern/mentor team. The program provides job site accommodations to enhance an internís independence or productivity on the job. Following successful completion of the program internship and training components, Clear Path seeks to place participants in entry level positions for which they qualify within the community. Yearly, the program serves 45 young people 15-26 years of age who represent diverse abilities and backgrounds.
Clear Path has found the municipality to be an ideal setting for this type of program. With many available mentors and internship opportunities, an organized personnel structure, and an undeniable responsibility to the community, governmental entities have the key resources and motivation needed to increase employment opportunities for all of their constituents. Housing the program in the Cityís Parks, Recreation and Library Department has increased benefits received by participants and their families to include social/recreational, physical and educational dividends.
Department staffs and volunteers are dedicated to developing the nationís model program and believe the benefits of Clear Path will be long-lasting for young people facing significant challenges.
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright © 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.