For individuals with disabilities, finding employment opportunities can sometimes seem like a daunting task, but twenty-six-year-old Andrew has held multiple positions in a variety of fields, proving that it is more than possible, and that it is okay to change career paths over the course of your life.
Andrew used what he learned in school to assist with redesigning No Label At the Table’s website. He spent eleven hours rebuilding the home, about us, and media pages! Andrew also works part-time as a bus boy at a local diner, and in his free time, he has volunteered to make dog biscuits for Buttermilk Mountain, a non-profit whose goal is to provide job training and opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
Andrew’s goals center around finding a career path and gaining independence, and like many young-adults, he has changed his mind along the way. Andrew states, “As far as my passions, I’m not sure coding is one of them anymore. My passions are more about doing things hands-on, literally, and doing what I can to help others.” Through his job experience, Andrew has discovered that he really enjoys hands-on tasks, and continues to pursue experiences that allow him to work in that way.
This past year, Andrew was accepted into the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) Program at Riley Hospital for Children as a trainee. He worked as a self-advocate, providing input on what it’s like to be on the autism spectrum to students who are studying to join the medical field. As a part of this program, Andrew created a survey for individuals on the autism spectrum to complete about their employment experiences, and presented this project at one of LEND’s poster sessions. Way to go Andrew!
Andrew enjoys writing, and blogs about his experiences and ambitions on his own website.
We all grow up with aspirations of one day becoming an independent adult. For some, this dream can be a little more difficult to achieve, but for 23 year old Riley, it is becoming a reality. For the past three years, Heather Royse, a Case Manager with The Columbus Organization, has been giving Riley the extra guidance he needs to spread his wings into adulthood.
Growing up, Riley’s biggest struggle was being social— getting out of the house, being around peers, and making friends. After graduating from high school and receiving his Certificate of Completion, Riley struggled to find opportunities to be around others his age. Riley’s family did everything they could to get him access to the best services they could find, choosing Columbus to provide him with extra support. Under Heather’s guidance, Riley is now able to partake in day services through the Family Supports Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) Waiver in Indiana. Heather guides Riley and his family through the waiver process— helping them decide how to split up their funding and the hours of services Riley is eligible to receive, ensuring that his health and safety needs are being met, helping Riley come up with goals for himself, and providing community resources as needed. Riley is now able to participate in community outings, takes art classes, gardens, and gets to interact with chickens! Since attending day services, Heather has noticed a change in Riley. He has become much more confident and open to peer interaction.
Riley is an active member of his church and partakes in a number of church-related activities. Most recently, Riley went on two mission trips to Guatemala where he helped with the construction of school buildings. This summer, he plans on taking a trip to Tennessee with his family to assist with the installation of water storage tanks for people who live in mountainous areas where treated water cannot be accessed.
One of Riley’s biggest passions is music, as he can play both the drums and the xylophone and does so twice a month in his church’s band. During a recent family trip to Nashville, Tennessee, Riley attended a concert performed by The Collier band, where he was invited on stage to sing. Riley was thrilled at the opportunity to perform his favorite country song, “Ring of Fire,” with the band!
Riley is currently looking to find a job in the music industry and has shadowed at a few music stores in Indianapolis. With enough coaching and support, Riley’s long-term goal is to one day own a tiny house of his own and live independently.
The biggest struggle for sixteen-year-old Indiana resident, Logan, has always been communication. However, over the past year that he has worked with Columbus Case Manager, Nichole Mendenhall, Logan has started to come out of his shell. This past quarter, Nichole has noticed a huge difference in his communication skills and confidence! Logan stayed quiet during his initial meetings with Nichole, but he is now openly expressing his opinions.
Nichole contributes this spike in communication to Logan’s recent participation in sports. Logan waited to sign up for sports initially because of his communication barriers, but over time he developed the confidence to join. Logan now participates in track, cross country, AND wrestling.
Logan pushed himself to get where he is today, raising his grades tremendously so that he would be eligible to participate in sports. Because of his hard work, this year Logan received honors for the first time in his school career, all while playing three sports!
Logan has also made many new friends through the sports he plays and enjoys hanging out with them after sporting events. In such a short time, Logan has made so many positive changes in his life!
As an incoming Junior in high school, Logan looks forward to reuniting with his teammates and starting another sporting season.
Speaking the Right Language:
This is a story about bridges – bridges between cultures, bridges from childhood to adulthood, bridges to an independent and meaningful life.
Over the past year, Ermin Pucar, a Columbus Case Manager, worked with a Bosnian individual and his family to help them to file for guardianship. As with many of Columbus’ bilingual case managers, Ermin speaks both English and Bosnian and was able to provide translation services for the individual he supported. This young man was nearing the age of 18, and Ermin suggested to the family that they should file for guardianship in order to give them legal rights over their child throughout his adulthood. This way, in the case of a crisis, the young man’s parents could sign off on his paperwork and make important decisions for him.
Ermin was able to guide the individual and his family through the complex process of filing for guardianship, speaking to them in Bosnian so that they could communicate as effectively as possible. Ermin not only helped the family find a reputable and affordable lawyer, but he also set up meetings between the lawyer and the family to discuss the court process.
On the morning of the court date, Ermin and the family showed up bright and early. Ermin translated for the family in court, making sure they were aware of their responsibilities as guardians. As a result, the young man’s parents were granted guardianship over their child.
Ermin’s outstanding actions are the perfect example of what Columbus strives to achieve— providing families the peace of mind in knowing that their loved one is supported. Columbus is practiced and adept in providing services that are customized to accommodate diverse cultural populations, by employing multilingual staff to provide services to the individuals we serve. Columbus employs several bilingual Case Managers who are fluent in languages such as Spanish, French, Italian, Hindi, Bosnian, and American Sign Language.
No longer does language need to be a barrier to achieving your meaningful-life goals.
The Columbus Organization is proud to support National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). Held each October, NDEAM aims to educate the public about disability employment issues and celebrate the myriad contributions of America’s workers with disabilities.
We would like to celebrate one of our employees, Nick Chambers.
Nick transitioned out of the East Central Regional Hospital and into the community several years ago where he receives the intensive support coordination model for case management. Nick has the custodial contract for cleaning the Columbus Organization Office in Augusta, Georgia. As our Custodial Technician, Nick has been part of our Columbus family for approximately four years now! He comes in daily for one hour per day and is known as a great worker and a pleasure to have on the team. “Nick has a very fun personality and a great sense of humor! He is a loyal and committed worker and gets along well with everyone,” says Cynthia, The Columbus Organization East Central Director in Georgia.
Please join us in recognizing Nick and participating in NDEAM.
From Susan’s Family:
Pearl is the Community Navigator for my sister Susan Dorow. I would like to thank her and recognize the outstanding service she has given us. Pearl is very knowledgeable, helpful and really appears to like her job. She always returns my phone calls and has Susan’s best interest at heart. Please recognize her outstanding service whatever way you can.
Thank you Pearl We wish you a long and successful career with Columbus.
From Kevin’s Family:
For almost two years now, I have had the great opportunity to work with Elizabeth Gresham who serves as Kevin’s Support Coordinator.
Elizabeth has the ability to get things done like no other. She also provides me with adequate information, resources and has really been a blessing to my family.
I look forward to working with her in the following years.
Gary W. Champagne, Jr.
From Andrea’s Family:
You have always been there for our child and family in our best or worst of times and have always had good ideas in problem solving Andrea’s issues. We have always been pleased with your services in helping with Andrea’s ISP (Individual Service Provider).
Because of this we have seen significant gains in Andrea’s quality of life within the community.
I would like to mention we have had services from other agencies and without doubt feel that you have been the most dedicated Support Coordinator since we have been on the waiver. When you visit our home you bring good ideas, a warm heart and a real concern for Andrea’s welfare. Just to let you know Andrea has noticed all these qualities and is always excited when she knows you are coming to visit.
Paul, Louise and Andrea Scholl
From Prince’s Family:
I could not have made it this far without you. You’ve been very personable with Prince and me, without jeopardizing professionalism or becoming too closely attached that you couldn’t be objective…Your just taking the time to sit on the porch and talking for a minute sometimes has made the difference between me losing it and having hope, in far too many circumstances.
I was sitting in an ISP meeting for Mike yesterday, actually two meetings, and had an opportunity to work with two of your newer Support Coordinators, Traylee and Sholanda.
Both were very enjoyable to work with, but even more importantly, they conducted the meeting in a very person-centered way – it was so refreshing to have a Support Team involving the individuals served instead of talking over them or trying to get through the paperwork.
Both Coordinators took their time to make the individuals served the focal part of the meeting. I just wanted to pass along the positive experiences with your staff yesterday! Thanks for training ’em up right!
Mark A. Swanson, President, Accent Inc.
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