Mission

SchoolTalk’s youth leadership, restorative justice, and secondary transition programming creates spaces that promote self-determination and a voice for youth with disabilities and their peers by encouraging collaborative problem-solving.

Background

Founded in 2008, SchoolTalk, Inc. is a District of Columbia (DC)-based nonprofit whose mission is to create spaces that promote self-determination and a voice for youth with disabilities and their peers. SchoolTalk supports the DC education community in collaboratively addressing complex challenges and creating practical solutions for assisting youth of all abilities achieve success. SchoolTalk’s programs actively work to improve postsecondary outcomes for youth through both proactive initiatives such as youth leadership and mentoring, skill-building, and workforce development; and direct intervention to resolve issues in productive ways, such as mediation and restorative justice. SchoolTalk has three key program areas: Youth Leadership, Restorative Justice, and Secondary Transition.

DC Youth Leadership Network
In response to a lack of opportunities and spaces for youth voice, SchoolTalk supported two DC students with disabilities to found the DC Youth Leadership Network (DCYLN), in 2014. The Network uses a positive youth development approach to promote self-determination and youth voice for youth with disabilities and their peers through youth-centered capacity building workshops, community-based activities, and civic engagement experiences. The DCYLN has grown over the past four years to serve approximately 600 youth with disabilities from every DC Ward. Authentic youth voice is integrated across all SchoolTalk programs.
Restorative Justice
Violence, trauma, suspensions, and truancy negatively affect our schools and have a disproportionate impact on our most vulnerable students. Schools across the US are shifting to restorative justice as an alternative to traditional approaches to discipline, in an attempt to reduce the disproportionate suspensions and expulsions of vulnerable students. Restorative DC, a program of SchoolTalk, is a community-based initiative that provides technical assistance and professional development to support DC schools in the integration of restorative justice philosophy and practices into school communities. Restorative DC is supported by a diverse collective of local restorative justice practitioners. Our team has a deep knowledge base that spans multiple restorative justice models and practices, as well as complementary expertise in social work, drama therapy, non-violent communication, positive discipline, coaching, trauma-informed practices, special education, and more.
Secondary Transition
In response to intractable gaps in postsecondary outcomes for youth with disabilities compared to their nondisabled peers, federal and local policies mandate that schools and adult service agencies provide secondary transition services for youth with disabilities ages 14-24. Secondary transition services are the supports that youth with disabilities receive to help them understand and direct their movement from high school to adult life. SchoolTalk aligns secondary transition work with nationally recognized, research-based secondary transition frameworks to promote systemic change and build the capacity of all local stakeholders to improve postsecondary employment, education, and independent living outcomes for youth with disabilities. SchoolTalk utilizes a person-centered approach to serve youth with visible and invisible disabilities across a full range of support needs from less significant to most significant. SchoolTalk secondary transition programming includes: Student-Led IEPS, SYEP JumpStart, Assistive Technology, Interagency Collaboration and Systems Change, and Professional/Resource Development.

Get involved

Power with partners is the heart of SchoolTalk’s work. Whether you are a student, teacher, parent or community member, we invite you to reach out so we can collaborate.

  • DC high school special education teacherSpeaking about the VSA SmART Skills residency

    "The kids had a great time! Thank you for the opportunity!"

  • Youth leader Speaking about the youth-led workshops at the Annual Voices of Change Conference

    "It's fun to do something with your peers and learn from peers because they understand where you are coming from."

  • High school principalSpeaking about a SchoolTalk special education conflict resolution training

    "I thoroughly enjoyed the training.  It gave me some additional tools to effectively communicate and manage conflict.  It was one of the best trainings that I have ever attended."