Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Adult, Career and Higher Education

Major Professor

Deirdre Cobb-Roberts, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Veselina Lambrev, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Elizabeth Shaunessy-Dedrick, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Elizabeth Perkins, Ph.D.


Recruitment, Post-Secondary, Capacity Building, Minorities, Participation


This dissertation in practice documents the program evaluation of the Community Scholars (CS) program at the Florida Center for Inclusive Communities (FCIC), a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) at the University of South Florida (USF). CS is part of a diversity pipeline program that recruits youth with disabilities to engage in paid on-the-job training (OJT) with FCIC. Scholars are community members (youth with disabilities) that are enrolled as FCIC trainees and receive mentoring, development of basic administrative competencies, individualized career coaching, college counseling, and disability policy and self-advocacy training. Through the OJT experience, scholars gain skills that can lead to gainful employment and are also introduced to post-secondary education as a real, next-step possibility. Program components were designed using Social Cognitive Career Theory while focusing on self-efficacy beliefs, outcome expectations, and goals. Improvement Science (IS) is used as the evaluation conceptual framework. Improvement cycles used the Strategize, Implement, Analyze, and Reflect model (SIAR). After each cycle, participants completed a survey evaluating their participation in the program. Empathy interviews were conducted with participants to gain additional feedback. Results show that 100% of participants expressed an interest in pursuing post-secondary education, 100% reported an increase in administrative skills, and 33% reported an increase in self-advocacy skills. The program evaluation findings suggest that CS achieved its goal of promoting post-secondary education attainment as an option for youth with disabilities.