The Graduation to Direct Support Professional (G2DSP) employment program provides high school and college students with an immersive career exploration experience in a field that offers viable career opportunities. The PAR G2DSP task force supports G2DSP employment programs across Pennsylvania to find sustainable ways to increase the number of high school graduates and college students being hired as direct support professionals (DSPs) and to increase the awareness of people with intellectual disabilities and autism (ID/A), including those  students who potentially will go into professions intersecting the lives of individuals with ID/A.

G2DSP Partners

Secondary educational institutions play an important role in G2DSP employment programs. Examples of Pennsylvania school districts that currently work with G2DSP programs include Carlisle, Big Spring, Philadelphia, Allentown, and Shippensburg.

Other important G2DSP program partners include Northern Tier Career Center, Harrisburg Area Community College, Lackawanna County Workforce Development Board (TANF Youth Work Experience Program), Lackawanna Career Technology Center, Cradle to Career Alliance and the Partnership for Career Development.

G2DSP Funding Sources

At this time, limited funding has been secured for G2DSP employment programs. One G2DSP employment program site utilizes funding from the Lackawanna County Workforce Development Board (TANF Youth Work Experience Program) to help fund their G2DSP pilot program. This funding only applies to students who meet TANF eligibility.

Another G2DSP employment program site has collaborated with the District 1199c Training and Upgrading Fund in Philadelphia to offer apprenticeship opportunities to students. G2DSP students were interested in apprenticeships and associated benefits offered through this resource. The students in the G2DSP employment program were connected with apprenticeship program coordinators from District 1199c’ program. The G2DSP program utilizing this funding  found this to be an excellent navigation plan for all students to tap into valuable resources for their future career development.

Potential Benefits

Potential benefits for students, providers, and other stakeholders participating in the G2DSP employment program include:  

  • Identification of a professional career with growth and development opportunities for students who may not have considered this career path. 
  • Development of a new pipeline of emerging talent for an essential field experiencing a workforce crisis. 
  • Potential government, educational, and private organization synergies. 
  • For students who choose not to pursue a career in this field can gain knowledge and insight on working /interacting with a person with a disability that can impact how they work with someone with a disability in their chosen career with someone with a disability


Currently, there are multiple barriers to the implementation and growth of the G2DSP program, including:

  • A lack of relationships with, and access to, state and local secondary and post-secondary school officials
  • A lack of knowledge, support, and coordination from the PA Department of Education and the PA Department of Labor & Industry concerning the need for employees in the field of ID/A  
  • The inability  for G2DSP graduates who are not yet 18 years of age to work as DSPs. These potential DSPs may choose to move to other occupations upon graduation instead of waiting until they turn 18 to get hired as a DSP. 
  • The inability of provider staff to commit enough time to the G2DSP program due to staffing shortages. The G2DSP program takes significant time to initially set up, and pilot sites do not have resources allowing them to assign staff solely to the program.  
  • The lack of knowledge among many high school students and secondary and post high school officials concerning the rewarding work opportunities available in the field of ID/A 
  • The lack of financial resources needed to initiate and grow D2DSP pilot site locations.  Funding is needed for the sustainability and growth of the G2DSP Employment program.

Needed Resources

Resources are needed to expand the G2DSP Employment program, including: 

  • Coordination and support from ODP to build partnerships with the PA Department of Education and the PA Department of Labor & Industry
  • The ability for DSPs to get college credit for job-related training and experience 
  • Financial support for G2DSP student wages and stipends, and to cover the wages of provider employees supporting G2DSP pilot programs  
  • The ability to hire 17-year-old G2DSP graduates as DSPs

Testimonials, Videos, and Examples of G2DSP Employment Programs: 

Quotes From G2DSP Students 

  • “I got much more than just sitting and learning. I had chances to experience and see DSP workers and even had a chance to bond with people (in service).”
  • “I would recommend this program for other students because it’s a great opportunity to learn more about disabilities. There is also an opportunity for a career for those who want it.”
  • "I will be working in this field because I’m going to work with all different types of people in my career as a nurse.”
  • “I would recommend this to friends or other people for next year and I would tell them to not say no until they’ve tried it. I feel like a lot of people still don't understand a lot of things like how to treat people who aren’t so different and they wouldn’t understand anything until they’ve been a part of it.”
  • “I am going to continue to work at my current job after high school, but I think I still could still see working at LifePath. But I have to wait until I am 18 and have my driver’s license.”
  • “I am interested in a career in this field because it feels like it just helps you become a more compassionate person overall and it makes you appreciate the things you have more than you did before.”
  • “I am interested in applying for a job with LifePath because I think it could help me down the road when I become a psychologist.”

Videos & Presentations Related to G2DSP Employment Programs 

Multigenerational Care 2023 Highlighting the G2DSP Employment Program at Saint Joseph Center

The 2022 LifePath G2DSP Presentation

The Allentown School District Century Promise and LifePath G2DSP Presentation

Example of a G2DSP Employment Program
The students from Lincoln High School came to SPIN once a week for five weeks. They had the opportunity to participate in structured learning, mentorships, and practical experiences in SPIN’s Community Participation Program and residential homes. The students were able to participate in the full DSP experience, they learned about the Everyday Lives principles, practiced creating and adapting activities to meet a person’s unique goals, led a gardening activity with people supported by SPIN, and shadowed Community Participation activities including Zumba, technology, and art classes. They also had the opportunity to learn about SPIN’s workplace culture and attended SPIN’s Benefits Bash. While there, students learned about the benefits available to SPIN Direct Support Professionals and had the opportunity to ask questions of SPIN’s Human Resources and Talent Acquisition Teams. Currently, four students have applied for positions at SPIN, and the remaining students are exploring their next step after graduation. SPIN understands the learning curve that students will experience as they move into a Direct Support Professional role and navigate their post-graduation lives. We are developing opportunities for students to work as part-time Direct Support Professionals as they pursue their post-secondary education.

The students were from diverse backgrounds and had unique life experiences that helped them to see the true value in people of all abilities and they expressed commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in their future educational and professional pursuits. Students with lived experience with disability shared and utilized their experience to contribute to their own and other’s meaningful outcomes.

As the program concluded, students had the opportunity to reflect on their experience and share their insights and feedback. It was moving to hear their stories and what they achieved from the program. They expressed how much they learned about people with disabilities and why they chose to participate. Additionally, SPIN held a celebration at which each G2DSP graduate was presented a Certificate of Achievement. Their smiles and pride shined through as demonstrated in the picture below! 

Are you a provider, school, student, family member or other stakeholder
interested in learning more about the G2DSP employment program?
Email us at [email protected]