In Fall 2019, the PoNG Center was awarded a 4-year National Science Foundation Grant to develop tools that train and prepare neurodiverse individuals looking for work. This grant includes the funding and resources to continue our full Summer Internship Program. This year we introduced the use of tech industry-standard processes, newly developed interactive training experiences, and expanded program assessment and focused outcome tracking. Additionally, with the difficult circumstances created by COVID-19, this was also the first year the internship program was offered entirely online. While the forced virtual nature of the program hampered in-person socializing, it was a unique chance to provide training in a remote work scenario (like many are currently experiencing) as well as an opportunity to foster a ‘go with the flow’ attitude.
In 2019 we were challenged to create a recurring program without recurring funding. The PoNG Center managed to provide the same quality coach-based mentoring on a smaller scale for this year’s internship. This summer, 4 neurodiverse interns practiced personal, professional, and tech development skills with support from a diligent coach as well as two intern alumni. Pairing graduated interns with current interns gave each a chance to learn from the other. The former interns developed mentoring and leadership skills, and the new interns established a peer network that we hope is ever-expanding. This year’s program was small but mighty. We look forward to scaling our program for this underserved population in future years.