Using a love of music as an entry to employment

For young people with disabilities, having a mentor can be incredibly beneficial in building self-confidence, communication and relationship skills, community, and a sense of purpose. Zach and Lynn, one of PYD’s many dynamic mentee/mentor duos, were first matched nearly three years ago and since then Zach has made progress in all these areas.

Zach moved from the U.K. to the Boston area in 2017. The following year, Zach’s mother heard about PYD and enrolled him in the mentoring program. At the time, Lynn was also relatively new to Boston and found PYD after searching for volunteer opportunities. Lynn “loved the Boston community and wanted to find a way to give back.”

Many mentees and mentors at PYD find that shared interests and passions help bring them together. This was true for Zach and Lynn who bonded through their shared love of food. Though Zach loves pizza and sushi, his first outing with Lynn was an October picnic along the Charles River – with proper tea, of course.

Besides being a food lover, Zach is also an accomplished musician. He has been playing the piano since age 7 and has participated in music programs at the Berklee Institute for Arts Education and Special Needs for the past several years.

At Berklee, Zach is currently a student director of the Harmony Ensemble and participates in the Rock Band Ensemble. Zach loves to perform with these groups, and “like[s] to invite many, many people that I know – not just my friends!” Before the pandemic, Lynn enjoyed attending those recitals, and even celebrated one of her birthdays by attending one of Zach’s recitals with her fiancé.

While they have plenty of fun together, Zach and Lynn’s mentoring relationship has also focused on helping Zach navigate some of the more challenging aspects of young adult life.

Lynn explained that when she and Zach first met, “Zach’s main goal was to find a job. We worked on that for almost a year. We went to a career fair, made use of PYD’s services, practiced interviews together, but we weren’t finding quite the right fit.”

Determined to help Zach, Lynn realized that there might be an opportunity for him to find meaningful employment through his church, where he has played the piano at Sunday mass for several years.

Lynn helped Zach have a conversation with the pastor at his church about getting paid to play the piano. This conversation led to a formal employment contract for Zach to start working at his church, and not just playing piano, but also helping hand out flyers, speak with children, and administrative work like sending out Christmas cards.

As Lynn and Zach demonstrate, having a mentor to guide PYD participants through the job search process helps them stay motivated, learn to set goals, and advocate for themselves.

Lynn is “so proud” of Zach, and particularly likes being his mentor because of how positive and direct he is. As for why Zach likes being her mentee, “I just like spending time together,” he said.

This article was written by PYD volunteer Lizzy Wimberly