Podcasts

IMPROVing Employment Outcomes with IMPROV

Sierra Royster, the Director of Innovation with the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL), talks with Michael Beers, the Youth Transition Coordinator at Summit Independent Living in Missoula, Montana. Michael is also a standup comedian and runs improv workshops. They discuss a variety of issues in employment, including creativity in employment support, the Centers for Independent Living in rural areas, youth transition to employment and theater as a means of engagement.

Presenters

A portrait of Michael Beers. He has a dark pompadour and a goatee. A street with some parked cares can be made out in the background bokeh. Michael Beershas been in an open relationship with Advocacy since 2001 when he was a delegate at thee Montana Youth Leadership Forum (MYLF) in 2001. He then began a casual courtship with Summit Independent Living as a Peer Advocate in 2003, a match that would eventually develop into Michael being labeled as Summit’s Youth Transitions Coordinator in 2008. A position he happily holds to this day and will hopefully have tomorrow. Both these relationships have opened doors for Michael to have a plethora (many) other opportunities to model model model as an advocate. He was a board member with Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL) for the better part of his youth and was a School Board member for Missoula County Public Schools from 2013-2019. Michael is also very proud to brag that he has been able to return as staff to MYLF ever summer since 2002 and is a staff member of the program throughout the year.

Finally Michael insists on telling jokes from time to time, another habit he picked up in 2001. He has traveled this country and a bit of Canada telling stories to audiences ranging in size from 1-1,000ish people. He also works at BASE community center (a program of Summit IL) with Missoula’s HomeGrown Comedy to teach communication through improv classes to students of all ages and abilities.

A portrait of Sierra Royster. She has shoulder length dark hair with purple ends. She is sitting in her car with the headrest behind her left shoulder. Sierra Royster works at the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL) as the Director of Innovation. She works with other national disability organizations to develop training material and new opportunities for Centers for Independent Living and Statewide Independent Living Councils, which make up the majority of their membership. Coming from a Center for Independent Living herself, she understands the importance of creating opportunities for CILs to create connections and peer support to make a large effect on their local communities. She uses this experience to identify gaps and needs within independent living and create programs or services to address them. She strives through all aspects of her position to ensure that rural areas are included in disability services, rights, and programs to create a larger outcome in the community.

Transcript

Announcer: You’re listening to the AoD Disability Employment Technical Assistance Center podcast, were we learn from people who are working to improve competitive integrated employment and economic outcomes for people with disabilities.

For today’s episode, Sierra Royster, the Director of Innovation with APRIL, or the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living, talks with Michael Beers, the Youth Transition Coordinator at Summit Independent Living in Missoula, Montana. Michael is also a standup comedian and runs improv workshops.

[music plays]

Sierra Royster: I am Sierra Royster. I’m from APRIL, which is the Associations of Programs for Rural Independent Living. We are a national membership organization for Centers for Independent Living. If you’re not familiar with us, [inaudible]. Mike Beers today is very familiar with us. but we are excited to kind of have you here today partnering with the DETAC and getting some of the conversation out around employment and how to make it cool and hip, which is the opposite of those words.

Michael Beers: I remember us being in a youth training telling people 10 years ago, as soon as you start saying “hip”, you need to start having your own checked and you need to stop worrying about being cool. So yeah, congratulations.

Sierra Royster: I’ve made it. I’ve made it.

Michael Beers: We are officially the, those hip people.

Sierra Royster: We are.

Michael Beers: Fantastic. Well, I am Michael Beers. In addition to being a standup comic and speaker, I’ve worked in independent living for God over 20 years. Primarily for Summit Independent Living Center in Montana, Missoula, Montana. Very proud. And we’ll talk more about a program specifically through Summit that I’ve helped develop along with some national partners and local people called BASE. And then also I’ve worked alongside the Center and another center who sponsors our youth leadership forum in the state of Montana. So the Montana Youth Leadership Forum. I’m an alumni and also a proud employee of that program as well. And was on the APRIL board for a number of years. So very familiar with those amazing programs. And it’s strive for community and, and, and training and, and all things rural, so excited to be here.

Sierra Royster: Awesome. Yeah, you were, I think, our first youth board seat on the APRIL Board.

Michael Beers: I was, and quick APRIL plug, I, I will always have a special place because it was the, it was the early 2000s and the, the, all the rage was to have national organizations create kids’ tables of youth. So it’d all be like a separate board with only young people that advise the regular board and say, APRIL’s I’ll always give APRIL credit. They said, you know what? That seems like a lot of work [laugh], why don’t we just put a, a youth on our board, [laugh] with everyone else. And I kind of started a trend. We started seeing that more and more. So shout out to APRIL for that. And I was yeah, very honored to be that, that first young person.

Sierra Royster: Well, with that, it’s, you know, we, they put you on the board, but they made you work.

Michael Beers: Yes, yes they did. They did [laugh] and Yeah. Nice segue. [Laugh], I usually have a, a problem with Segues cuz the throttles on the right.

Sierra Royster: Mm-hmm.

Michael Beers: Um I have a, for those, it is an audio podcast. I have a very short right arm as well. It’s part of my disability. Yeah, let’s talk employment.

Sierra Royster: Well, so today, like employment’s been a conversation forever. I feel like, you know, we, the goal is to get people employed, people with disabilities at a higher rate of employment. And I think every disability organization and service agency has gone about different ways to bring new employment opportunities, whether that is what the person actually wants to do and could just check off a box, or it is actually helping somebody pursue a career that they actually want to be in. But with your comedy background and natural skill I think that you’ve done a really innovative way of kind of approaching employment and talking about employment beyond just how do we get somebody on a job. There’s so many things before we get there, but I think you’ve done a really nice job of opening up the conversation for so long. So I’m excited to hear what you’re gonna, what are gonna say about all that. [Laugh]

Michael Beers: No, thank you Sierra. I know and Sierra and I go way back. We’ve, we’ve been at working collaboratively in different areas around, like Sierra said these same questions for a lot of years. And the, the thing is, they were old questions when we got involved. It seems since I got introduced to the independent living and by extension, disability rights movement and those philosophies housing, transportation, employment, you know, there’s the, the, the, the primary four issues that seem to never change as priorities. And, you know, I haven’t checked it lately, but it feels like the unemployment rate for people with disabilities has stayed at that, you know, at that rate since I started. And we haven’t seen much movement despite a lot of creative different strategies for approaching this. So in getting into the schools I think, like I said, the Youth Leadership Forum was both my, my introduction to this language of employment and opportunity.

And my first opportunity to be employed through centers. And once, once we got into schools, I know a lot of us you know, began to recognize that yes, our, our our, what we were being asked to do was connect young people with employment and housing and those transition goals. But one of the, the things that became very apparent is that the, the young people that we’re seeing and working with in schools and the issues that they’re dealing with going back to the 2000s and today are, are much different than the, the access issues that began our movements. And it was amazing to be in front of those audience and being able to respond to that. But, you know, the question became how do we respond when, when the issue for employment isn’t a a lack of access to a ramp or an elevator or braille, but it’s, you know dealing with mental health, learning disabilities, you know, these types of things.

So I know I’ve I’ve seen a lot of those trends go in and out. I think a lot of it too that we that I recognize and I remember talking about with people working with in schools at the time, Sierra and APRIL, a lot of people at APRIL included was just that once we got into the schools, you know, despite the, the money or the grant money or our charge being employment and housing, that’s not what the young people were most concerned about. Their concerns really boiled down to like loneliness and a lack of confidence. So it, and sometimes a home life that that was, you know, so it was less, less about a disability and more about other issues at home. So, you know so how do you deal with those things and get to get to those, those employment goals? Cuz it seemed like a, a barrier cuz if you’re and it really forced us, yeah, it forced us to look at different ways of addressing those issues. And we’ll talk about later. Improv is something that you know, I have naturally in my background and we really started to look at as something that could probably address those loneliness and confidence building skills.

Sierra Royster: Yeah. And I think one of the things that we’ve always talked about, or I’ve heard lots of programs and coordinators and stuff talk about as well, is those, those soft skills, right? And those connections with one another. But you know, we focus a lot on youth when we start talking young adults when we talk about employment. But I think one of the things that me and you have talked around a lot before is the, the support that an individual means. So it’s more than just setting up a group of people to connect and, and play games together or to network with one another or have a, you know, an outing. But the community support that continues, I think, around trying to strive and achieve some of those goals and like having that support with you when you experience something and it doesn’t go well [laugh] and being able to build you back up [laugh].

Michael Beers: Yeah.

Sierra Royster: Uh can you talk, will you talk a little bit about like that, that community piece, cuz I think you touched a little bit on BASE earlier, but many people don’t know that.

Michael Beers: Yeah.

Sierra Royster: Centers for Independent Living are community based organizations. They, their programs are focused on what their community needs or the gaps that are there. But you all took such a different approach to that. I think it’s the amount of community and support and rallying together um …

Michael Beers: Yeah.

Sierra Royster: … Really changed a lot of how outcomes looked.

Michael Beers: Absolutely. And I think you know, BASE as a program was born out of a lot of conversations that began with like Youth Leadership Forums and like the APRIL pre-conference I think was a you know, every, before it ever is a breakout session. It’s the, the conversation you have next to the coffee pot and, you know, in the airport on the way to the conference. So BASE is kind of a, a response to some of those. But it really challenged, you know, looking at you know, that old adage, you know, “You do the best you can until you know better. And then once you know better, you try to do better.” And that’s a a Maya Angelou quote that I, I’m sure I didn’t get exact, but but when it comes to community, I think community living and community first choice, and this word community is something that we, we talk about a lot in [independent living].

And I always associate it with the, the living independently part. So I’m living in the environment that I choose, whether it’s an apartment or a house with the, the services I need. But the more, you know, we, we talked around, you know, the idea of community and getting access to it. Uh you know, an an apartment is a physical location, a community is people. And that’s not something that, at least at this time, I saw a lot of us intentionally going after is: how do we connect people with people and not just, you know, you live in an apartment in the community independently. I think it was for a lot of times it was presented intentionally or not as a linear process. So yes, graduate high school, let’s focus on getting you a job, then let’s focus on getting you an apartment.

And once you get all those things, let’s check all these boxes, then, you know, friends will happen and you can then meet people. And you know, we know that doesn’t, you know, that’s, that meaning people is part of the motivation for those other things, right? So the reason I get a job, the reason I want money is because I have places to go and people to go out and see. If I don’t have those things, it takes away the primary motivation for wanting a job or, you know, to practice my hygiene or look fresh or do those soft skills. So setting up community, I think YLFs do a great — Youth Leadership Forums — do a great job. APRIL’s pre-conference, other conferences around the country, transition conferences. But they’re, they’re isolated. So they’re one week or one weekend a month and only a certain number of people can go.

So accessing where do you access when you need that feeling of community? So that’s where BASE you know, we, we started coming around the idea of how do we set up through a center, a program that is you know, and we, we pick the name BASE because it’s a very relatable, everybody’s played tag or some version of it. And the first thing that you do is establish base, right? So base is either the monkey bars or the couch. And as soon as you put your hand there, no matter how weird the game is, no matter how stressed out you are by it, if your hand is on that spot, universally in the understanding is: nobody can mess with you. I can take a break, I can be myself, I can make a plan but I can’t stay here. I can come back here whenever I need it, but I always have to take what I got here and go play the game again.

So the analogy and the, you know, kind of the cornerstone became: if life is the game that we’re all playing wouldn’t it be nice as a young adult or somebody of any age if you knew where to run and put your hand and say, no, not right now. Right now I’m gonna surround myself by the things and the people that I’ve chosen to build that confidence. And and that’s really, you know what, what’s sprang into programs like the improv, which we’ll talk about, but the other, the other part of it, the, the community piece that Sierra brought up. And this is this is, this isn’t different. And, but I, I like this podcast cuz it, it has these conversations and it pushes the boundaries of what we’ve always done. Because honestly we’re dealing with problems we’ve never dealt with before.

So to think that we’re gonna tackle ’em the way we did others, you know, is, is, is a practice in, you know not getting things done. We opened up these program, this program specifically and the, the, the activities within it open to everybody. So we are at BASE a separate location from the Center. We are a program of it. But all activities that happen in that location are all-abilities all-ages. So the idea of setting up community is also about not isolating yourself. So sometimes we get, I, and I, I can say this for myself personally, you can go from a place where you’re under-identifying as a person with disability in that, “No, I don’t have a disability and I don’t want to be part of, you know, any of that stuff,” to a place where you’ve over-identified and your job is disability, all your friends are related to disability and you don’t have anything outside of that because the center or that disability program is the place where you feel safe. So we also wanted to, to challenge that. Let’s build community based on interest and not necessarily label. So that’s where, where programs like improv seem like a natural fit.

Sierra Royster: Well, and I think you’ve also talked about what you told me is getting people engaged and exposing them to different things, like and how when we talk about community, I think, you know, you said it best of like bringing all those people together, you know, cross-disability or, you know, no disability or not yet defined yet [laugh] or whatever that looks like. That group of individuals just coming together because they have a, a similar interest. And if they don’t have the opportunity to find those interests, I think when we start talking about employment, your interests are gonna be limited on what you’ve been exposed to. You, you talked about you, there was a, I think a presentation that you did on exposure and expanding horizons kind of, or opportunities. Will you talk about that? Your I like that part.

Michael Beers: Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, and it’s again like a conversation we’ve been circling around, but a lot I say we, I mean a lot of us doing this, this work for a lot of years. It’s about the language. So what do you, what language do you have to describe what you want? So you know, I’ve been in those rooms with you know, trying to brainstorm, okay, we’re not getting the job shadows that we want. We’re not getting the numbers that we want through this program or another idea. Uand, you know,frustrating and even kind of like, Hey, [laugh], how many people do you talk to want to be a YouTube star? And everybody’s like, oh yeah, everybody wants to be that. Or they want to be a video game designer. Uand again, it’s, it’s about looking at things and, and asking yourself why, like, why is, are these consistently the answers we’re getting?

And if you look at the you know, we really looked at and through this conversation with parents talked about like, what is your student with a dis disabilities experiences been thus far in life versus the maybe a, a sibling that doesn’t have, doesn’t identify with disability. And the reason, you know, one of the reasons that we’re getting a lot of YouTube and, and video games as career goals is because that’s all they’ve had access to. So, you know, well, well, we think about a student who may have gone through like kindergarten to, to graduating high school. And, you know, hasn’t had, you know had to deal with identifying with disability. You know, there’s, there’s soccer practice, there’s language programs, there’s music programs, there’s travel abroad programs. There’s a hundred thousand things that you’ve tried and failed at before you ever get to the point in high school where you’re asked, what do you think you’d like to do?

And for a lot of people, well, with disabilities, myself included, and a lot of students we work with, that’s not the case. Their experiences have been doctor’s appointments, therapy you know, just recovery from whatever, dealing with trauma you know, dealing with social, isol io isolation. So yeah, when they have free time, it’s video games on YouTube. So then when we ask what do you want to do? That’s the only language that they have and the only experience they have to pull from. So getting to improv and, and building community, a lot of times our, you know, what we’ve, what I think the conversation is going toward and some of the ideas that I see having an impact are less about placing a student in a specific job with a specific employer, but it’s about giving them access and exposure to different things.

And to try and to fail at so they can figure out their language for what they want. And we’re not trying to impose what our language for employment is. And you know, that’s, yeah, that’s where we get into the tropes of food, filth or flowers or “Hey, why were you, you know, why, why did you fail out of college right away?” which so many of us do, even when that’s what we want, it’s because that, that might not have been, we, we, we’ve never been exposed to trying and failing before. So instead a higher you know, the risk and the cost benefit is, is higher now cuz it’s college and not soccer practice. But I still don’t have that experience. So yeah, I think experience is access to experience is also a way to build confidence and resilience that I don’t know that we offer enough through our program.

Sierra Royster: Well, will you, I know you’ve talked about it a little bit when we talk about improv …

Michael Beers: Mm-hmm. [Affirmative].

Sierra Royster: … I mean, maybe go over just a little bit what improv is in case we have some newbies just in general to comedy such as myself, I find absolutely that my joke book qualifies me, but [laugh] I’ve yet to take it on stage. So yeah.

Michael Beers: You have at least one comic in the house. I know that. So …

Sierra Royster: [Laugh].

Michael Beers: Um and yeah and I think [laugh] and, and Sierra and I have done improv together for years. It’s only in the last like, maybe five, we’ve called it improv …

Sierra Royster: [Laugh].

Michael Beers: … Because, and that’s the beauty part about it: improv is a form of performance theater. A lot of people know, like the, “Whose Line Is It Anyway” with Drew Carey that’s been on for, for decades. And a lot of people will say, well, it’s, it’s comedy and, and and performing without a script. And that is true to an extent. But it’s not just actors getting on stage and saying whatever they want. Um …

Sierra Royster: Actually, so.

Michael Beers: … [laugh] it is but there are loose sets of rules. So you’re put into a scene with a one, another actor or depending on the scenario, you know, maybe up to five or seven. And you’re given a place typically from the audience can give suggestions. A place, how you know each other, and maybe the word “lamp”. And you have to stay within those guidelines of each game. But beyond staying in those guidelines, you can, you, you make up the dialogue, you don’t memorize anything and you you see where you go. So this you know, in thinking about this as a improv was my introduction to standup comedy. That’s how I got into it. As a way to build confidence on stage and also learn to deal with the things that were unexpected as a performer. But really looking at, you know what is asked of everybody every day: life is inherently improv.

So, you know, we’re never, you know, it would be nice, I think for a lot of us, if we showed up to school every morning or to work and were handed a script that said, this is everything everybody’s gonna say to you, and guess what? We’ve written down every correct response. You just have to memorize it and say it when you’re cued. We don’t get that, like, the most we get is a, a syllabus or a meeting agenda. So our success or failure a lot is the is a result of our ability to fill in those spaces between the bullet points. And that essentially is what improv is. And so it allows you rather than sitting down and you know, reading how to speak in public from a book, which I never underst. It allows you to try and practice failing and finding something new from that failure and having a blast while you do it. And that will translate to confidence and the ability to keep that conversation going in other areas of your life. And that’s, that was the idea going into, to using improv as a base program in the first place, was using that stage to build that confidence to have it spread out into other areas of people’s lives. And yeah, it’s we’ve seen some success with it.

Sierra Royster: What would you say because I think I have never been in the comedy world you’re like my closest touch to that, I guess when I’ve seen you perform and stuff, but those that are new to it or I, I think it’s a, I think we can all relate to it, right? We all have to speak off the cuff sometimes and [laugh], we mess it up or we don’t. And so when we’re teaching that though, that’s not, we often are teaching employment skills as concrete skills, right? Make sure you brush your teeth and [laugh] you smile and you’ve brushed your hair and you have professional looking clothes or attire on you respond to people in this manner when they say hello or these are your boundary circles and this is what a coworker’s relationship should be versus this. So how do people that are maybe interested in kind of opening up new ideas or new ways to have some of these conversations that are the in between those bullet points as you mentioned earlier. What are some suggestions you have for them of how they could kind of incorporate some of this? Or who could they partner with maybe?

Michael Beers: They partner? Yeah. absolutely. I think you know, and part of the reason that we found so much success with improv in, in where we started, so I said I had a background in it and I know a lot of comedians, so it was a natural first stop. It was something I had confidence in. So we started there. If you’re looking at, you know building a programming or looking at how to address employment in a different way, I would say, you know, the go go with what you’re confident in. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be improv. It could be, it could be another art form, it could be, you know, poetry or it could be D&D. I think, you know, in looking at the BASE program at at Summit just turned eight years old, we’ve been in our space for eight years and we are looking at, you know, having conversations like this cuz if we’re seeing that impact in Missoula, Montana, you know, that these are issues and people that exist elsewhere.

So exactly that, what advice for anybody? And I think the closest starting point would be creating space that people with disabilities and artists can share simultaneously. And that’s really what, you know, we, we did with improv, you know but it can be, you know, any number of things. So I wouldn’t look at you know, in, in your town if you want to specifically look at that, you know, look to see if there’s improv classes or an improv troupe performing. Colleges are a great place often like a, a theater program will have students that are looking for hours or, you know, teaching opportunities and reaching out to, to get something started. And we did this again cuz it was, it was what we had access to. But the more we went, you know, even the people that started showing up strictly for an improv class or to help volunteer who didn’t necessarily identify openly with disability, once you created a space that was creative and and open to all ages and abilities, you know, we have, you know, a lot of artists that Venn diagram of artists and people with disabilities has a lot of overlap because they’re similar languages.

They’re art is all about trying to find a new way to describe old things. And disability is all about finding a new way to navigate life when it was built for people that do things in other ways. So there’s a natural relationship there, and a lot of times artists for the first time after being involved will, will feel comfortable identifying and saying, you know, I am a person with a disability. That’s not apparent, but, you know, I’ve never had a space where I felt safe. So yeah really. And learning the language. So knowing and listening to this podcast, understanding, I think it’s very interesting. I think a lot of us that have worked in these fields, much like [laugh], the analogy we used about YouTube stars and, and, and video game designers. We’ve all felt like we could be doing more and there’s a better way and a, a more impactful way to do these things, but we haven’t been exposed to a lot of it.

So we need to find that language. We need to find the right language to address the needs that we’re seeing and don’t have that language yet. So I think, yeah, check out the BASE program, we’ll give some links at the end. You can check out some stuff virtually, check out what APRIL’s doing. I know Sierra, you do a great job of bringing youth coordinators from across the country together. And I think the, the few times I’ve been able to make that call, what I really get out of it is that language. So it might not be, you know, exactly, oh, I’m gonna replicate this program to the letter, but it’s, you know, knowing that yeah, there’s somebody in Spokane doing Dungeons and Dragons and there’s somebody in California who’s also doing improv, but they’re doing it this way, you know? So yeah, just exposing yourself to, to what’s there and being able to take it back and saying, “This exists”. You know, even if you know the people you are trying to, to get approval from, don’t, don’t want to go in this direction. You know, understanding that there is a language for it out there.

Sierra Royster: I, I think you’re hitting on a lot. I think, and we talked about this with the base of like community and bringing different people around. That’s why I really wanted to highlight BASE as well, is because I think that shows those different artists as you spoke about, but also the different community members that have come around to bring their interest, their skillset their passions together to expose more people to those opportunities. And we’re talking Missoula, Montana, which is not urban but [laugh], what is that? I mean, some urban areas probably would have, you know maybe some more opportunities, but can you talk a little bit about what this looks like in a rural area and maybe some of those I wouldn’t even say barriers, but things to prepare for, or things to know how to navigate.

Michael Beers: Right. I think, you know, and we’ve, we’ve seen a lot of success and the rural is it can often be more isolating. So, you know, urban areas you know, sometimes isolation isn’t as prevalent an issue because of things like access to transportation and variety of programming, you know the, just the, the sheer the, you know a rural student of any label shape or size inherently is going to have less experiences than somebody that lives in a New York or in LA just because we don’t have the diversity of people and we don’t have the infrastructure for different programming. So I think the so yeah, inherently there can be more problems. So this is a, a, a way to address some of that and the improv and building that confidence in communication styles. So something worth mentioning too we are open to all ages, all abilities but we are, you know our bones and our DNA are disability rates.

So all of our improv games and everything we offer is, is put through the accessibility workshop. So everybody can do something. Nobody can do everything. So you may not be able to do every improv game. But we don’t, you know, we’re not going to set people up to, to not succeed or to be able to participate. So, you know, when we say communication, we’re not just talking verbally. You know, we’ve also retrofitted and talk a lot about how you have your entire body to use to communicate. And for some people that may be the only thing that they have. So those are all integrated as well, and we can, you know, if you’re interested, we’re always happy to workshop accessibility in games with people that are interested. But yeah, especially in a rural community, it’s employment and community is about all about who you know, and because everybody knows everybody, so it really is in your best interest, even sometimes more so than, you know, that college degree you can hand ’em, or that letter of reference is being able to sit down and bs with somebody and be like, oh yeah, I know so-and-so and so and so, yeah, they you know, they talked about the weather with me for 45 minutes this morning.

Being able to talk about the weather in rural settings is, is a soft skill. You know, right now up in Montana, there’s all kinds of people go, oh, this snow is awful, but come fire season, we’re gonna, you know, be thankful we got this moisture. And being able to have those conversations is an employable skill. And I think improv is a really fun way to, to build that.

Sierra Royster: Well I love what you, I always like chatting ladies, but I first of all just thank you for coming and having a conversation with me. Anytime that I can lock you down to chat with me for this long is fun. But the things I just think that are important to maybe just note as kind of some takeaways as we’re kinda wrapping up is the community piece. I know we talked about that and you talked about knowing who’s in your community and maybe it’s not somebody in your community that necessarily is at your job, but somebody you hang out on the weekends, it has a, a really cool, fun thing that they do. And, and kind of figuring out how you can connect with one another with those things. And then also the one thing you spoke so much of, of the improv piece and I think we all can relate to this, whether you’ve done improv or whether you’ve not, or whether you woke up and didn’t stick your foot in your mouth this morning …

Michael Beers: Yeah.

Sierra Royster: … Is, is the confidence piece. And anytime that we can, and you’ve talked about that before of like confidence and community are really what can build success in employment, but also in somebody’s life in general if you can go into those different situations in, in between into that interview or even into that first day of the job or the 30th day of the job, when you don’t like the person next to you [laugh] and you can still, you can still know what to say and how to say it, and have that confidence of who you are. And I think that community and that support piece is really crucial. So thank you for sharing all these things. I think we will I’ll have you send some links over for different maybe resources for improv or some ideas of where people can start looking for outside of the box, thinking on some of those.

Michael Beers: Yeah, absolutely. I’ll send I’ll send over some links to base programming also some movies that we’ve been making. And I know we talked a lot about improv, but for the people a lot of the people who have been involved with our improv class for a number of years, and, you know, with the pandemic, you know, separating us for, for so long physically video making and sharing videos we made at home while we were isolated became how we stayed connected. And it really kind of snowballed into you know, getting films made and written. So we’ve and that’s done. And just quickly, the, the way I I, I really like this program because it is, it started, a lot of it started with improv, but now we’re into movie making. And if you’re working with students to make a movie, there are so many transferrable skills when it comes to set design, technology, running cameras, promoting, you know, writing you know, so again, if you’re not making movies, those are skillsets that are gonna be useful in other places. So, but it’s that buy-in, it’s that buy-in because it’s, it’s movie making versus, you know, if you set somebody up with a, you know a job shadow that they may not be interested in. So I’ll share those, those are on the the, the Summit YouTube channel. But yeah, check those out. And yeah, happy to, happy to answer questions and have this conversation whenever.

Sierra Royster: Yeah. And I would say if I … Improv, we, we talked about it as an activity, right? And as something that you can do. But I think as you started off at the very beginning, improving what you’re doing, yeah. You know, whatever it is being able to roll with that, that’s their interest and, and fold and pull out those skills. Cause I think just like the movie making stuff of, there’s so many hidden skills and, and everything that you’re doing, as long as you can find those and then then give, give the opportunity for them to be exposed and, and learn and grow from those opportunities. So I’ll also send over, you’ll have access to, we did mention the APRIL youth coordinators connect calls. Those are times where Centers and other disability organizations are coming together to talk about what they’re doing for youth and young adults for programming and employment being one of those things that they’re working towards some of those soft skills or the pre-employment transition skills and things. So those are some of the things on top of many, many other things that they talk about. But I think anytime you can get a group of people together to share minds, there’s always gonna be some good information. So. Well, thank you. Great. And I guess we’ll connect soon.

Michael Beers: All right. Big round of applause for Sierra, everybody.

Sierra Royster: Big round of applause for Beers.

Sierra Royster: People listening to the podcaster, oh, they’re all applauding right now.

Sierra Royster: They are.

Announcer: You’ve been listening to the AoD Disability Employment Technical Assistance Center podcast.

In today’s episode, Sierra Royster from the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (or APRIL) spoke with Michael Beers from Summit Independent Living. You can learn more about APRIL at www.april-rural.org and more about Summit Independent Living at www.summitilc.org.

The AOD Disability, Employment Technical Assistance Center, or DETAC, is a project of the Lewin Group and TASH, created by a grant from the Administration for Community Living to provide evidence based training and technical assistance to Administration on Disabilities grantees aimed at improving competitive integrated employment and economic outcomes for individuals with disabilities across the nation. To learn more about DETAC, visit AoDDisabilityEmploymentTACenter.com for news and alerts about upcoming webinars and podcasts. You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Music for the DETAC Podcast is an original composition and performance by Sunny Cefaratti, the co-director and autistic self-advocacy mentor at the Musical Autist. You can learn more about the Musical Autist at www.themusicalautist.org.

We’ll have another episode on competitive integrated employment for you in the near future.

[music plays]

This discussion was originally recorded on February 15, 2023.

This audio recording and transcript has been lightly edited for content and clarity.

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