LIHUE — The students were amazing in their job performances, said Cyndi Ayonon of the Mayor’s Office.
“They were really good,” she said. “There was one working with George Costa in the Office of Economic Development. She was really good — so good, she got a scholarship. But she was so shy about what she achieved.”
Ayonon was speaking of a youth with a disability who was hired by the county for the summer through a county-state partnership program started in 2016 and continued in 2017.
The program, done in collaboration with the state Department of Human Services Vocational Rehabilitation Division, became reality after the county secured a federal grant of $161,120 to hire up to 25 students a year for a total of $322,240.
In 2016, students were placed in the Treasury Finance, Agency on Elderly Affairs, the Department of Liquor Control, Office of Economic Development, the Transportation Agency, and in the Department of Parks and Recreation at the Wailua Golf Course, Waimea Park, the Kauai Veterans Cemetery and Koloa Park.
In 2017, students were placed in the Real Property Collection, IT Department, Office of Economic Development, the Transportation Agency, and with the Department of Parks and Recreation at the Westside Summer Fun programs, Westside parks and at the Wailua Golf Course.
Ayonon said the program was a success over the two years with about 25 percent of the students being placed in jobs in the community, and 75 to 100 percent of them continuing their education.
During National Disability Employment Awareness Month, which has a theme of “Inclusion Drives Innovation,” the county acknowledged the collaborative efforts of agencies and individuals who contributed to the success of the DVR Summer Youth Employment Program, including Layne Shigeta of the Vocational Rehabilitation Division, Kaeo Bradford of the Kauai Workforce Investment Act, Linda Nuland-Ames, the county’s American Disabilities Act coordinator, and VRD coordinators Gordon Doo, Raime Mardonanda and Dorean Duhaylongsod.
There are 30 million American adults with disabilities who are able to work, but in 2016 just 27.7 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities were employed.