The MDSC is thrilled to announce the launch of our new public awareness campaign, Your Next Star, aimed at opening the eyes of employers to the power of people with Down syndrome in the workplace. Two years in the making, Your Next Star came about because of our increasing awareness of the challenges facing adults with Down syndrome looking for meaningful work opportunities in their communities.
For more than 30 years, the MDSC has worked tirelessly to provide information, networking opportunities, and advocacy for individuals with Down syndrome and their families.
In 2013, we conducted a comprehensive Membership Survey, the first such undertaking in our history. The 450 responses proved to be a wealth of data perfect for guiding our planning and activities for the future.
Among the critical needs the survey identified was a shortage of growth opportunities for our self-advocate members after leaving high school. It was reported in stark terms that our adult self advocates and their families were frustrated by unsuccessful attempts to find good work in their communities.
Upon further investigation, we found that people with Down syndrome and other disabilities have drastically higher unemployment rates than their non-disabled peers despite typically showing more loyalty and lower turnover, and having similar job performance ratings.
Our Your Next Star public awareness campaign is the MDSC’s attempt to change that.
For the MDSC and our members, people with Down syndrome having successful work lives directly relates to everything we do. Expectant parents need to know their children will have complete, fulfilling lives as adults. Families with school-age children need to know all their educational efforts will pay off in “the real world.” And employment is a huge part of the equation when talking about all our programs, whether it’s related to inclusion, leadership or social opportunities.
With the launch of Your Next Star the MDSC is charting a course into new territory. Since everyone can relate to the need for good employment opportunities, we hope no matter who you are, you’ll join us on this journey.
If you are an employer in Massachusetts, we hope that we can help you find Your Next Star by visiting our website and linking to our collaborating organizations who can connect you with qualified candidates to enhance and diversify your workforce.
If you are a person with Down syndrome or a friend or family member, Your Next Star will help you find ways to educate employers about the many wonderful attributes people with Down syndrome or other intellectual or developmental disabilities bring to the workplace. You’ll also find a wealth of resources, be able to share your success story, and learn how to advocate for best practices and stronger funding for employment initiatives around the Commonwealth.
Fortunately, there are many employers who have embraced our vision and have successfully hired people with Down syndrome to work for their companies. We will highlight many of these success stories on our campaign website www.yournextstar.com over the coming year.
The MDSC is tackling some of the most significant challenges facing our loved ones with Down syndrome. Our new strategic plan that our Board of Directors approved this past June, calls for positioning the MDSC as the pivotal organizational resource in supporting, in an active lifetime partnership, individuals with Down syndrome, their families and support network.
Your Next Star is just the beginning. Get involved and share information about this campaign with everyone in your networks. By working together, we can ensure that all people with Down syndrome and other intellectual and developmental disabilities are engaged in meaningful employment opportunities in their communities.
Look for more initiatives this year for adults with Down syndrome and their families such as our new adult conference, Growing up with Down Syndrome: Living a Longer, Healthier and Meaningful Life, in collaboration with the Massachusetts General Hospital Down Syndrome Program on October 24.
Special thanks to everyone who made Your Next Star possible – our collaborating partners, MA Department of Developmental Services, Work Without Limits, Best Buddies Jobs, Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) Transition to Work; members of our Public Awareness and Business Advisory Councils; our web designer Lewis Robinovitch and video production company Northern Light Productions; employers and self-advocates who participated in our centerpiece video and photo shoots; and to our Communications and Operations Director, Josh Komyerov, for his leadership in guiding this project. And finally, to our staunch supporters – all MDSC members and members of our Board of Directors and Honorary Board who give tirelessly of their time, talents and treasures to ensure that the MDSC continues to grow to meet the ongoing challenges facing our community.