(September 26, 2018)

“Successes of Youth with Disabilities Transitioning From School to Competitive Integrated Employment”

To celebrate the start of October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month

The briefing was presented by CPSD and the National Council on Disability, in collaboration with Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS) and Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI), co-chairs of the House Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS), Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), and Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA)

Attendees learned about how states are helping youth with disabilities succeed as they transition from high school and enter the general workforce.  They heard from people with disabilities and their families about why competitive integrated employment is so important to them, including Van Berg and his father Jeffrey and Yasmine Faith Harrison and her mother Greta.

State speakers included Marissa Catalon, Deputy Director and Katie Howe Director of Program Integrity, from Delaware Division of Developmental Disability Services and B.J. Dernbach, Assistant Deputy Secretary Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

Special guest: Dan Habib, nationally recognized filmmaker, shared a clip from his new INTELLIGENT LIVES project, highlighting the experiences of people with disabilities transitioning from school to work.

Briefing Handouts

Congressional Briefing Overview

Competitive Integrated Employment for People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities: Myths and Truths (CPSD)

Competitive Integrated Employment (Intelligent Lives)

“A Purpose in Life: Why Employment First Matters to Self-Advocates” (Self Advocates Becoming Empowered and Green Mountain Self Advocates)

Wisconsin Promise Congressional Briefing testimony

Wisconsin PROMISE Outcomes

Delaware Successes of Youth with Disabilities

Congressional Briefing Overview

Testimony of Jeffrey and Van Berg

Testimony of Greta Harrison

Testimony of Yasmine “Yassy” Harrison

Speaker Bios

Representatives Seth Moulton was first called to service when he joined the Marines in 2001, days after graduating from college and months before the attacks on 9/11. As the leader of an infantry platoon, he was among the first Americans to reach Baghdad in 2003. He served four tours in a war that he didn’t agree with – but he was proud to go, so no one had to go in his place.

After returning home from Iraq, Seth earned joint degrees in Business and Public Policy at graduate school, and then worked in the private sector in Texas to build the country’s first high speed rail line. But it wasn’t long before he was called to serve once again – this time in his home district in Massachusetts.

Seth ran – and won – on a platform of bringing a new generation of leadership to Washington, becoming the only Democrat to unseat an incumbent in a primary in 2014.

In the two terms since he was first sworn in, Seth has worked tirelessly to uphold his commitment to bipartisanship. He has passed several bipartisan bills, including the Faster Care for Veterans Act and the Modernizing Government Travel Act, and was named the most effective freshman Democrat by the Center for Effective Lawmaking. He has also concentrated on spurring economic development in Massachusetts, creating the first intergovernmental task force focused on growing the economy of Lynn, the biggest city in his district.

Today, as a member of the Budget Committee, Seth is focused on creating a new economic agenda that will make a difference for American families. He also sits on the House Armed Services Committee and is the top Democrat on the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.

Seth lives in Salem, Massachusetts with his wife Elizabeth.


Neil Romano is the Chairman on the National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency charged with advising the President, Congress, and other federal agencies regarding policies, programs, practices, and procedures that affect people with disabilities.  He has dedicated his career to the marketing of ideas and messages to help save lives and promote public policy.  Romano’s extensive professional background includes tenure as director of communications for the White House Office of Drug Abuse Policy. In that role, he worked on notable public awareness campaigns including “Just Say No” and “America Responds to AIDS.” In 2007, Romano was nominated by President George W. Bush to be the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy and was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate. As head of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), Romano advised the Secretary of Labor and worked with all DOL agencies to lead a comprehensive and coordinated national policy regarding the employment of people with disabilities in the United States. His work as a member of the Committee for Purchase from People Who are Blind or Severely Disabled, helped improve the quality of life for workers with disabilities. In 2010, Romano’s work as a member of that committee was recognized by the full committee with a special leadership award. As a producer/director, Romano’s film, “Youth Homicide: A Public Health Crisis,” earned a Best Director Emmy Nomination.


Dan Habib is the creator of the award-winning documentary films Including Samuel, Who Cares About Kelsey?, Mr. Connolly Has ALS (an IDA nominee for Best Short), Intelligent Lives and many other films on disability issues. Habib’s films have been featured in dozens of film festivals, broadcast internationally, nominated for Emmy awards and translated into 17 languages for worldwide distribution. Habib is a filmmaker at the University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability. Habib gave a widely viewed TEDx talk, “Disabling Segregation,” received the Champion of Human and Civil Rights Award from the NEA, and the Justice for All Grassroots Award from the American Association of People with Disabilities. In 2014, Habib was appointed by President Barack Obama to the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. Habib and his wife, Betsy, live in Concord, NH, with their sons Isaiah, 21, and Samuel, 18.


Yasmine “Yassy” Harrison is a junior at Bethel High School in Hampton, Virginia.  She loves her school.  She is a member of the Student Council and takes art, yoga and drama lessons in her free time. Yassy has been fully included 100% of the time with typical peers since the age of two. She is now eighteen. Yassy has spoken to two incoming classes of teachers at William & Mary, and a Hampton City Schools session for parents, and administrators that included the superintendent. She has attended four sessions of VDOE’s nationally recognized ‘I’m Determined’ program at James Madison University, and several state and national conferences. She was the first person with a significant disability to intern with the City of Hampton this past summer under Virginia’s Pre-ETS program. She provided office support in the Human Resources Department. She starts her next internship increasing her skills at Hampton’s office of DARS (Department of Rehabilitative Services and Aging) September 28th working one afternoon a week. She will be supporting DARS staff and job coaches.  Yassy loves art and identifies as an artist.


Greta Harrison is the proud parent of two daughters (Yassy, 18, and Nia, 30, who heads planning/research/ and evaluation for Virginia’s Board for People with Disabilities.) Greta is also a local civic leader. She has chaired the Arc of the Virginia Peninsula, Hampton City Schools Special Education Advisory Committee and the Community Services Board Family Advisory Committee.  She led the work team that brought the first Virginia Project SEARCH site to Sentara in Hampton and continues on its Business Advisory Council. Greta is a 2008 WHRO CIVIC Leadership Graduate and founded First Book-Hampton Roads in 2008 with her mentor. It continued until his death, giving out over 50,000 books to children in need in eleven cities of Hampton Roads. Greta is involved in her church’s outreach program. She is part of the COACH program work team. And her “baby” at the moment is a new podcast titled “Pathfinders,” interviewing the parents behind successful youth with disabilities, which she is currently recording to be released early 2019. Greta loves football and may be the biggest Minnesota Vikings fan you ever meet.  She has been married for 38 years.


Marissa Catalon is has spent most of her career working in support of Delawareans with disabilities, With more than 25 years of professional experience in program design, implementation and operations. Prior to her appointment to Deputy Director for the Division of Developmental Disabilities Services (DDDS) this past March, Marissa served as the statewide Director of Day and Transition Services.  In this position, she established the Day Services Provider Advisory Committee which partners.  Community Employment and Day Service Providers with DDDS staff to identify service and systems inefficiencies and develop a coordinated response to improve operations and outcomes.  In 2015, Marissa engaged in the design and implementation of the Pathways to Employment program: a Medicaid Home and Community Based State Plan option supporting youth with disabilities to obtain employment in their communities.

Marissa also served as the Regional Day and Transition Program Administrator for New Castle County where she collaborated with the Delaware Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR), the Delaware Department of Education (DOE) and Local Education Agencies (LEAs) to develop a collaboration framework that jointly supports youth and adults to pursue and achieve their individual goals.  In 2005, Marissa helped launch the Early Start to Supported Employment (ESSE) program, a nationally recognized and innovative transition program for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities exiting school services and entering the workforce.


Katie Howe found her passion for working with people with I/DD when she began her career as an Employment Specialist with Delaware Elwyn in 1998.  In 2001, she joined The Delaware Division of Developmental Disabilities Services (DDDS) as a Family Support Specialist assisting individuals and their families to develop a vision and a path for their lives and services.  In 2012, Katie was promoted to Assistant Director of Day Services in the DDDS Day Services Unit.  In this role, Katie strengthened relationships with the Delaware Department of Education, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Local Education Agencies, and the Day Service Provider community in efforts to provide a quality blend of services for each individual supported.  The lasting partnerships have enabled her to assist hundreds of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to transition successfully into employment and/or adult services that support their ability to achieve their personal employment or life goals. Additionally, Katie has assisted the Division in the development of policy and procedures for new services provided through the Home and Community Based Medicaid Waiver and serves as the Division’s lead with the Pathways to Employment program.  She is also an active member of the Pathways to Employment Quality Committee and has been vital in ensuring services are delivered according to the person-centered plan. Katie also serves as the Division’s representative on the Delaware Developmental Disabilities Council.


Jeffrey Berg currently works as a counselor in a Washington, D.C. mental health clinic that serves people who are experiencing homelessness.  Prior to joining So Others Might Eat, he served as Legal Counsel for the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, U.S. Department of the Treasury for almost 20 years.  For much of the 1980s, he served as deputy director of the Alexandria, Virginia housing authority.  Prior to that, he was a social worker and administrator for several community-based programs for people with intellectual and physical disabilities.  Mr. Berg has a bachelors degree in social work, a masters degree in pubic administration, a law degree, and a masters degree in mental health counseling.


Van Berg works in the Patient Transport unit of the National Institute for Health, where he takes care of wheelchairs, collects and delivers specimens, and other jobs.  He really likes his job!  He has worked there for eight years.  He graduated from the Ivymount School in Bethesda, Maryland.


BJ Dernbach serves as the Assistant Deputy Secretary at the Department of Workforce Development (DWD), where he oversees policy and communications for the department.  He previously served as DWD’s Legislative Liaison and later as Division Administrator for Worker’s Compensation and Operations.  Prior to DWD, he worked in the Wisconsin Legislature for nearly eight years as a policy advisor and Committee Clerk of the Assembly Labor Committee. He earned my Masters of Public Affairs from the UW-Madison La Follette School of Public Affairs and a Bachelor of Arts in Politics and Government with a minor in Communication from Ripon College.


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