New Eugene Springfield Community Conversations Event Seeks to Identify Employment Solutions for Community Members Experiencing Disability

EUGENE, OR: SEPT 16, 2019: Several agencies within the community are coming together to host the first Eugene Springfield Community Conversation on October 7, 2019 from 6pm to 8pm.

Driven by a mission to promote an equitable and inclusive community by bringing together important stakeholders, the Community Conversation seeks to solve persistent challenges for community members experiencing disability. 

During the two-hour event, key community partners including self-advocates, parents, business owners, job developers, and high school educators will seek to answer the following questions: 

  1. How can we as a community increase employment opportunities for youth who experience intellectual and developmental disability?
  2. What can I do to increase employment opportunities for youth who experience intellectual and developmental disability?

A goal for the event is representation by individuals employed in the following industries: food and beverage, technology, healthcare, construction, hospitality/tourism, and forestry.

“The Community Conversation will provide a unique opportunity for individuals to interact and talk in a way they otherwise wouldn’t,” explained  Chris Knowles, Director of Family and Community Research and Outreach,

University Center on Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) at the University of Oregon. “As a group, we hope to come up with outside-the-box solutions to solve employment challenges in Eugene and Springfield for individuals experiencing intellectual and developmental disabilities.” 

A key outcome of the event will also be to reduce implicit bias, or the unconscious tendency to attribute particular qualities to members of social groups. 

“When a company hires an individual with an intellectual or developmental disability, we want the employer to know that this is a person who can work and who will have a strong support system” added Margaret Thiesen, Executive Director, Pearl Buck Center.  

Funding for the Eugene Springfield Community Conversation is provided by a $500 Better Together grant from the Oregon Council on Developmental Disabilities and the Center on Human Development and UCEDD at the University of Oregon. Monies will be used to provide a meal prepared by a local student with autism with a long-term career goal of owning a food truck. Local high school students will receive volunteer credit for assisting with food preparation, clean up, and general hospitality. 

The framework for the Eugene Springfield Community Conversation is modeled after an event facilitated by the TennesseeWorks Partnership, a collaboration of agencies and organizations working together to improve employment outcomes for young people with disabilities in the state of Tennessee. 

Involved in the planning of the Eugene Springfield Community Conversations are the University of Oregon’s Center on Human Development and UCEDD, The Arc Lane County, Families Connected, Pearl Buck Center, KindTree — Autism Rocks, Cognitopia, LLC, and Positive Community Kitchen. 

The first Eugene Springfield Community Conversation will be held on Monday, October 7 from 6:00-8:00pm at North Park Community Church on 3484 Harlow Road, Eugene, OR 97401. Future Community Conversations on other topics will follow.  

This is an invitation-only event, please contact us if you are interested in attending this or future events.

Contact: Chris Knowles
Director of Family and Community Research and Outreach, University Center on Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, University of Oregon
Phone: 503-789-7113

Contact: Laura Dahill
Director of Marketing and Communications
Phone: 971-226-1368

Contact: Julie Henning
Marketing Manager, Cognitopia
Phone: 763-234-8547

Images and Interviews Available Upon Request

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About Julie Henning

Julie Henning has been with Cognitopia since 2015. In that time, she has been involved in customer support, training, marketing, documentation, social media, and data collection. Some of her favorite projects have been mentoring our videographer intern, Nate, and weekly classroom testing and curriculum development for the many students in the 4J Connections Transition program. She works closely with Eugene-based SLLEA (Smart Living, Learning & Earning with Autism) to integrate Cognitopia’s self-management tools into the organization and structure design input and support platform implementation. Professionally, Julie has over twenty years’ experience working in engineering, technology, software development, and journalism; a path made possible with two degrees in Technical Communication: a BS from the Milwaukee School of Engineering and a MS from Colorado State University. A single mom of three high schoolers (grades 9, 10, and 11), Julie has introduced Cognitopia to terms such as “sick” and “yeet,” while overseeing the office coffee consumption. In her free time, she enjoys playing recreational soccer, improv comedy, and traveling.

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