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City of Knoxville, Tennessee
Madeline Rogero, Mayor

For Immediate Release
City to Participate in Disability Mentoring Week
October 14, 2011 - The City of Knoxville is welcoming 15 people with various disabilities next week who will be shadowing city employees in areas ranging from the horticultural services division to the police, fire, fleet services, and the community development departments during national Disability Mentoring Week.

The visits are part of Disability Mentoring Day 2011, which the City of Knoxville and participating local businesses and organizations have stretched into a week - October 17-21 - this year.

Disability Mentoring Day - it's officially Wednesday, Oct. 19 - was established in 1999 as part of a White House initiative to promote National Disability Awareness month. The annual effort to promote career development for students and job seekers with disabilities has grown from less than three dozen participants during that first year to thousands of people who participate nationwide today.

The goal is to pair an individual with a disability with a workplace mentor in a field they are interested in exploring. They typically spend a day, or part of a day, working together giving the mentee some insight into the job.

"We've got mentees spread all over the place," said Stephanie Cook, the city's disability services coordinator. One of her goals has been to have as many city departments involved in the program as possible and the city is making steady progress toward that mark. The number of city departments expressing an interest in participating has grown and two departments that haven't hosted a mentee before have joined this year's effort.

"It gives city employees an opportunity to work alongside people with disabilities and to learn that, hey, they are just people too. I think this is a win-win for everyone involved," Cook said in an earlier interview.

The city has participated in the program since 2003, starting out with a single individual.

The program is expanding rapidly outside of city government as well.

Nearly 40 Knoxville area companies and organizations are taking part in the Disability Mentoring Week in Knoxville this year – up from 30 in 2010 and only six in 2009.

Part of this growth can be attributed to the partnership between The Knoxville Chamber and the Knoxville Area Employment Consortium (or KAEC,) which joined forces in 2010 to make the local efforts surrounding national disability employment awareness month an even bigger success.

"I'm thrilled to see how it has grown," said Cook, who is a member of the KAEC. "The chamber joined with us last year and that's really opened it up to a lot of companies."

A breakfast event to recognize the mentors and mentees is set for Wednesday, October 26th at 8:00 a.m. at the downtown Hilton and the public is invited and encouraged to attend. The keynote speaker is Brett Leake, a nationally known comedian who happens to have a disability. Tickets are $25.00 and proceeds go to support the KAEC.

More information about Disability Mentoring Day, the KAEC, and the October 26th event is available by contacting:

Tina Jones, KAEC Chair, at 865-594-6720, ext. 1105 or jonest@utk.edu.

More information about the Knox Area Employment Consortium and its efforts is available at www.facebook.com/KAECKnoxville and general information about Disability Mentoring Day can also be obtained by going to www.dmd-aapd.org or to www.dol.gov/odep/programs/dmd.htm.
For Immediate Release
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