employU now offers peer mentoring. Peer mentors are like-aged peers who connect youth clients to long-term community resources. These resources can help students receive the initial social supports they need to effectively transition into post-secondary training, education, and employment.

Peer mentors provide a relatability and understanding that can otherwise be lost among non-peer age groups. Having been in the students’ shoes not too long ago, peer mentors are able to guide students through current challenges and climates in order to help them reach their goals.

Upon completion of this service, students will have increased ability to effectively advocate for their needs, supports, and services. Additionally, through their own advocacy efforts, students can register and actively participate with groups, organizations, or networks that promote personal growth and development or serve as long-term supports.

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Through a blend of virtual and face-to-face interaction, peer mentors work one-on-one with youth customers to explore opportunities and assist them on their path to independence. It is like having their own concierge to tailor their experience.

The time commitment for this service is flexible and can vary based on customer’s availability, but typically ranges between 5 and 20 hours per month. Customers can engage in this service for any length of time between one and six months.

This one-on-one support helps clients:

  • Discover community service organizations youth can access to obtain long-term supports and services they may need beyond the assistance they receive from VR.
  • Engage with social support groups that help youth become more integrated into their communities and give them the confidence to create and sustain social networks of peers.
  • Utilize employment-related social networking to build professional networks and learn more about their career interests.

Interested in this service or in becoming a peer mentor? Contact us below!


Elektra Wright

My name is Elektra Wright, I’m 20 years old. I currently live in Orange Park, Florida where I attend Florida State College of Jacksonville where I major in physical therapy. I’m a very minimalistic person, I love only the necessity. I also like to do DIY arts and crafts. I have a miniature dapple dachshund, She’s three years old and she’s my emotional support animal. She’s super cute. I decided to become a peer mentor for my love of helping others. My biggest fear in high school was not fitting in. Once I had others to mentor me I realized that I am enough and I want to pass off that same experience that I received from my mentors.

The most important thing that I’ve ever experienced during my path of learning and understanding my disability l was to always think positive thoughts and never put yourself down.

Shannon Saunders

My name is Shannon Saunders. I am 20 years old and I live in Ponte Vedra, FL. I am currently a sophomore at Flagler College and my major is Media Studies. Someday I think I’d like to work in the publishing industry, although I am not sure exactly where yet. I live with my parents, two sisters, and two dogs. Most of the time I’m either at school, at work, reading, or hanging out with my dogs.

I decided to become a peer mentor because I see the difference my mom, Jan Saunders, makes every day in her program at EmployU. My goal is to combine the experiences that I have had so far in my work and school careers with the wisdom my mom has given me to help my peer mentees as much as I can.

Joel Leon

My name is Joel Leon. Growing up, I was very hyper and very outgoing but I struggled with a lot in my life. At age four, I was diagnosed with ADHD, and then later with Asperger’s, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and a retention learning disability. Though I walked and spoke early, other developmental milestones were delayed. I did not know what was to come or how to use my Tourette syndrome, Autism, ADHD, and OCD as a superpower. Unable to continue with a classroom education, I was then homeschooled by my mom.

When I was 15, I started developing more ticks and was diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome. During that same year, after being involved in a car accident, my Tourette’s became more severe. Though everyone was physically unharmed, the trauma from the accident exacerbated my Tourette’s. I began to tic uncontrollably for six to seven hours at a time. At one point, a local South Florida university that was treating me kept me so sedated that I had no quality of life. All I did was tic and sleep. I was taken to the emergency room when the medication stopped working and the tics where unable to be controlled.

In 2011, my mom, unable to find help locally, had reached out online through Facebook to the Tourette Syndrome Association community. Another mother saw the need and made phone calls to the Rothman Center/ John Hopkins where she took her own son. We were given an appointment the following day. The three-hour drive we traveled form Port St. Lucie to Tampa, began to be made three times weekly. I had uncontrolled explosive coprolalia and physical motor tics, some of the worst and most disabling types of tics. I had been on the wrong medications and hadn’t received the proper therapy.

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As I continued treatment at the Rothman Center, my dosages of medication were gradually changed, lowered, and new ones introduced. I began to tic less and less until I had whole days without ticcing constantly. “The help he received there gave him his life back,” my mom says. There is further hope. In most instances, Tourette Syndrome is reduced with age and experience.

I had mentors over the years who took an interest in me, regardless of my situation and my disability. They taught me to see my disability as something that could be used to honor my faith and help others. They taught me to see my disability as something that could be used to glorify God and help others. I would use my disability as a superpower. I would use my disability as a tool to bless others the way I had been blessed. I am able to now look at challenges, laugh, and say, “Nope, here we go again,” with a smile and keep moving with my life.

Not many people have had the neurological and physical issues that I have had and climbed to the top of the mountain at such a young age. But I have done so and with God’s help, I am a survivor. I currently attend college, studying Information Technology, and I am preparing to take the State of Florida CompTIA A+ examination. I’ve had a girlfriend and can pray one day I will get married, hold a job, and support a family. I have accepted myself and learned to cope with my current situation. Much of my positive mindset is in thanks to my mother, my father, and my faith.

My mom says, “A child with Tourette’s is meant to be a productive member of society. My son is unique. Joel, like all people with special needs, can contribute much to this world if given the chance.”

I too have taken that stance and have become a mentor to other children with Tourette’s, teaching them how to cope as they speak with each other through Skype around the country. I strive to leave a legacy of courage and faith for others to follow in.

*Now Serving the Treasure Coast, St. Augustine, Leesburg, and Jacksonville areas. Expanding to other regions soon.