Fourteen local people with disabilities recently graduated from the Sid Katz Mentorship Program at Community Access Unlimited (CAU) and are poised to become mentors to other people with disabilities. All are CAU members.
CAU is a statewide Elizabeth-based nonprofit providing support programs and services to adults with disabilities as well as youth served under the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to enable them to live independently in the community, providing supports in areas including housing, vocational skills and life-skills training, education, advocacy and recreation.
The mentoring program, named for a long-time CAU member and veteran advocate for people with disabilities, is the brain-child of members of CAU's New American Movement for People With Disabilities (NAMPWD), an advocacy group within the agency.
"Our program is made up of our NAM members," said Michael Williams, CAU's community organizer. "It's people with disabilities mentoring people with disabilities."
The program comprises eight two-hour weekly training sessions covering topics such as what is a mentor, advocating, becoming a good leader and communication. Upon completion, graduates were assigned mentees to work with, who will then in turn go through the training and become mentors themselves.
"We learned a lot," said Gary Rubin. "We learned people skills, how people are feeling inside, such as neglected of abused. We learned how to put ourselves in their shoes and not feel discouraged. Many of us feel that way, too."
"I learned to be trustful and treat people nicely," said Joyce Cargyle. "We learned a lot about reflective listening. We learned to be a better person. I'm glad to be part of it."
"Now we will teach our mentees what we learned," said Annie Sims. "We will teach them how to grow and how to work with staff. We have come a long way."
Williams and Charlotte Glover designed and taught the training program and enjoyed watching the participants learn and grow.
"We're teaching them to speak up for their rights and not be afraid to express themselves," said Glover. "They want people to know, 'We're here and we have a voice.'"
"They learned a lot about themselves while learning to be mentors," added Williams.
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About Community Access Unlimited
Community Access Unlimited (CAU), celebrating its 37th year in 2016, supports people with special needs in achieving real lives in the community. CAU provides support and gives voice to adults and youth who traditionally have little support and no voice in society. CAU helps people with housing, life skills, employment, money management, socialization and civic activities. CAU also supports opportunities for advocacy through training in assertiveness, decision-making and civil right. CAU currently serves more than 6,000 individuals and families, with the number served growing each year. For more information about CAU and its services, contact us by phone at 908.354.3040, online at www.caunj.org or by mail at 80 West Grand Street, Elizabeth, NJ 07202.