Paper Type

Doctoral Project


College of Education and Human Services

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)



NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Leadership, School Counseling & Sports Management

First Advisor

Dr. David Hoppey

Second Advisor

Dr. Judy Shanley

Third Advisor

Dr. Kristine Webb

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Lunetta Williams


Despite the proven youth development benefits of mentoring programs, youth with disabilities are often excluded from these opportunities. Fortunately, training and certification programs exist to support organizations in improving disability inclusion strategies and practices. Despite these opportunities, organizations still regularly struggle with making meaningful changes in this area. Therefore, it is important to understand how graduates of these training and certification programs experience facilitators and barriers to disability inclusion, what advocacy strategies they leverage to address these barriers, and how they impact their organizations to become more inclusive of youth with disabilities. The purpose of this study was to further understand the experiences of youth development professionals who have graduated from the Disability Mentoring Certification program as they attempt to advocate and implement inclusive practices and strategies within their mentoring programs and organizations. The study was a basic qualitative study and collected data through 2 focus groups, 6 one-to-one interviews, and naturally occurring artifacts related to the participants’ organizations. Data was analyzed using the constant comparative model to analyze the data in three phases of open coding, axial coding, and selective coding. Findings highlighted the participants’ similar beliefs and experiences related to disability inclusion, facilitators to disability inclusion, barriers to disability inclusion, and disability inclusion advocacy strategies. The discussion includes findings, implications for practice, limitations, and recommendations for further research.