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It's not easy for the average person to strike up a conversation with a stranger.

It's hard for people with developmental disabilities too.

Rachel with another Path to Success student. All photos via Upworthy.


That's why Rachel Goldschmidt went to Your Path to Success (YPTS). Started by Dreams for Kids D.C., it's a mentorship program that helps adults with developmental disabilities improve their social skills and gain independence.

Goldschmidt had been diagnosed with developmental delays in speech and fine motor skills when she was 3 years old. As an adult, she was looking to strengthen her social comfortability.

She ended up doing so well in the program that she came back as a mentor, so she could help others too.

"Now that I’ve overcome my own challenges, I want to share those strategies with other young adults who have disabilities," says Goldschmidt.

Rachel Goldschmidt.

Her first mentee was 20-year-old Jada Williams.

Williams has hydrocephalus, which means there's a build up of cerebrospinal fluid in her brain — a condition that has left her developmentally disabled. She hoped to gain more confidence in social settings with YPTS.

Williams and Goldschmidt started the program somewhat timidly, but eventually they began to let each other in.

Williams and Goldschmidt hanging out at a soccer game.

They spent time together cleaning up Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C., along with other students, but their bond really grew when they hung out at a soccer game.

Soon they were having casual coffee dates outside the program on their own time.

But it's not just about forming friendships. YPTS wants to help students succeed professionally too.

Stacy Herman and Glenda Fu lead a YPTS workshop.

"We really want to help them build not only social relationships but also do their resumes and mock interviews to get them comfortable sitting in an interview and meeting someone for the first time," explains Stacy Herman, director of inclusion and accessibility at Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center, which works with YPTS.

They're also finding companies that are amenable to having mentees go for a site visit and meet higher-ups who might one day call them in for an interview. The hope is they'll get more and more comfortable with unfamiliar social settings until they're able to rock a job interview.

After 21 days of mentorship, Williams' has more self-assurance to take on the world.

Williams and Goldschmidt meeting new people after the soccer game.

She also has a new friendship with someone who understands what she's going through better than most. That's no small accomplishment.

"I think as they progress, their walls and barriers will come down even more and they’ll really develop this friendship," says Glenda Fu, executive director of Dreams for Kids, DC.

Most importantly, though, Williams is learning how to connect with new people in a meaningful way, which will no doubt help her find her way in life.

Watch Williams and Goldschmidt's whole story here:

This program is teaching adults with disabilities the skills they need to build relationships and find careers.

Posted by Upworthy on Wednesday, July 26, 2017

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