When it comes to supporting people with disabilities, there are many nonprofits out there that all aim to make a difference and positive impact. However, only some have achieved the level of success and recognition that The Next Step Programs has.
Co-founded by Joshua Fields in 2015 as a teenager, The Next Step Program has become an exemplary nonprofit organization in the disability community. Their work helps provide critical resources and support both to individuals with disabilities and their families.
The Next Step Program began as a small initiative in a local community center, but under Fields’s leadership, it rapidly grew into a full-fledged nonprofit organization. Joshua Fields’ passion for helping those in need and his dedication to the cause has been instrumental in the organization’s success.
After Fields was paired with a classmate with Down syndrome in 6th grade and met his eventual business partner, Richard Price, at a summer camp for young adults with Down syndrome in 2014, the two soon realized that the disability community needed more representation and resources. “We were talking about what our lives were going to be like after high school and what we planned on doing,” Fields says. “But the more people I asked about what happens to my friends with disabilities once we leave, the more ‘I don’t knows’ I got.” Knowing that something had to improve, Fields took it upon himself to spearhead that change.
People with disabilities and jobs
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 21.3 percent of people with a disability have a job. One of the reasons commonly cited as to why people with disabilities are left out of the workforce is that they lack the knowledge, skills, or abilities necessary. However, this is more often due to the fact that people with disabilities, particularly Down syndrome, are rarely (if ever) given opportunities to gain these skill sets and abilities in real-world situations once they leave the public education system.
Fields and his team recognize this discrepancy and are working hard to correct this stigma surrounding people with disabilities. “People with disabilities deserve the opportunity to work, live and access their communities. Far too often, barriers exist that prevent this from being possible,” he shares.
One of these barriers is the stigma surrounding people with disabilities and the lack of community knowledge. This is why a primary focus of The Next Step Program is to highlight the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics that employees with disabilities can bring to the companies that hire them.
A critical reason behind the success of The Next Step Program is its focus on providing a wide range of resources and services to people with disabilities. The organization offers everything from job training and educational programs to recreational activities and community events, with the goal of empowering individuals with disabilities to live as independently as possible.
One of the most notable programs offered by Fields’s organization is its vocational training program, which provides individuals with disabilities the skills and training they need to enter the workforce and succeed in their chosen careers. The program includes job coaching, résumé writing workshops, and interview preparation, among other resources. The vocational training program has been incredibly successful, with many participants securing meaningful employment in various fields, including at The Next Step Program itself.
In addition to its vocational training program, the nonprofit also offers a range of educational programs for people with disabilities, allowing them to develop new skills and knowledge, and promote lifelong learning through the program’s unique design. For instance, some of the educational programs offered by the organization include computer skills training, financial literacy workshops, and literacy and numeracy courses.
Of course, it’s not just about work and education — Fields’s organization also recognizes the importance of leisure and social activities. The Next Step Program offers a range of recreational programs and community events, such as sports teams, art classes, and community outings designed to help people with disabilities connect with others in their community, build friendships, and develop new interests.
“Families of those in the disability community should turn to TNS for their needs,” adds Joshua Fields. “TNS is dedicated to empowering individuals with disabilities to live independent and fulfilling lives; thus helping the families and caregivers, as well. Our team of experienced professionals is committed to providing high-quality services and support to help each person reach their full potential.”
Impact on community
One of the most remarkable things about TNS is how it has become a hub of support for those within the disabled community. The organization is known for its compassionate and dedicated staff, who work tirelessly to provide individualized support to each and every program participant.
In addition, Fields and his team have created a culture of inclusivity and acceptance, which has fostered a sense of belonging among those with disabilities and their families. “TNS has built a community of like minded, caring individuals who are working together to innovate new solutions, take down barriers, and pave the way for a world that recognizes each person’s ability,” shares Fields.
The impact of The Next Step Program on the disability community cannot be overstated. The organization has helped countless individuals with disabilities to live fuller, more independent lives and has provided a crucial support network for families and caregivers.
Through The Next Step Program’s holistic approach to support, the organization recognizes that individuals with disabilities have unique needs and challenges, and provides a range of resources and services to meet those needs. The focus on vocational training and recreational activities is a perfect example of this — The Next Step understands that success is not just about work but also about having a fulfilling and enjoyable life.
Since its founding, The Next Step Program has become an exemplary nonprofit organization in the disability community. Through its focus on vocational training, education, and recreation, the organization has empowered countless individuals with disabilities to reach their full potential.
“As a young CEO and founder, I find myself feeling hopeful for the future,” shares Fields. “I’m eager to be a part of the change that is destined to come for families and young adults with disabilities.”