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Vanessa Richard comes to Center on Disability and Development from Texas Workforce Commission/Vocational Rehabilitation Services where she was a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor. Vanessa and her family transitioned from Georgia to Texas in 2013 where she served in the capacity of Rehabilitation Unit Manager with Georgia Rehabilitation Agency. Her extensive background in vocational rehabilitation provided her the opportunity to develop and coordinate services for individuals with disabilities on the community level. Additionally, she also has experience at the higher educational level where she worked as an accommodation counselor with Sam Houston State University Services for Students with Disabilities developing classroom accommodation plans. Vanessa is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) with a Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from University of Kentucky, and a Master’s degree in Human Resource Management from Troy University.

Joana Idakwo comes to the Center on Disability and Development from the Houston Independent School District, where she worked as a Transition Coach for the District. Her expertise lies in secondary special education. Joana also runs a non-profit organization Mind-Investors (currently registered in both Nigeria her country of birth and the United States of America) founded in 2012 dedicated to inspiring enthusiastic and dynamic learning as a means of nurturing a lifelong love of knowledge in the minds of Nigerian children. Check out the organization’s most recent activity.

Under the supervision of Dr. Dulan Zhang, Vanessa and Joana will work together on TWC Statewide Capacity Building and Coordination with Texas Education Centers (TEA) and Texas Workforce Commission Vocational Rehabilitation Services (TWC/VRS). Their responsibilities include coordinating and organizing focus groups between the two entities throughout the state in an effort to identify areas that need improvement. Training opportunities in the form of 2-day sessions will be provided to transition educators and transition vocational rehabilitation counselors throughout the state to build and strengthen innovation, collaboration, and resources that are reasonable and appropriate in transitioning high school students from secondary education into employment or post-secondary education. Finally, a statewide capacity building conference branded as a TWC- sponsored conference in 2019 will provide additional opportunities for transition educators and transition vocational rehabilitation counselors in increasing their resources, knowledge, and collaborative efforts in transition planning. Vanessa is excited about the opportunity to impart her vocational rehabilitation knowledge in research initiatives for individuals with disabilities.