SUCCESS STORIES EMPLOYMENT IS OUR BUSINESS

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1 SUCCESS STORIES EMPLOYMENT IS OUR BUSINESS

2 PERFORMANCE HIGHLIGHTS Overview The Florida Department of Education s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation administers the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program, Florida s employment service for people with disabilities. The division maintains 80 service locations across the state and has 931 employees. VR is a federal/state partnership that helps people who have physical or mental disabilities get or keep a job. Our mission is To help people with disabilities find and maintain employment, and enhance their independence. Ben Davis, who has a disability, works at the Englewood Goodwill store. He tried out different jobs to see which one would best suit him, and he found his niche as a sales floor associate. 2 S T O R I E S Name Page Nate Quillen Ft. Walton Beach/Kentucky 4 Edwin Diaz Orlando 5 Renee Proctor Ocala 6 Juan Carlos Morales - Ft. Lauderdale 7 Mike Milita - Ft. Myers 8 Marcus Huepenbecker Bay Pines 9 Lindsay Penney Vero Beach 10 Gary Virgin Ft. Walton Beach 11 Michael Benders Tampa 12 Aaron Hosterman Ocala 13 Stephanie Perkins Miami 14

3 Facts»» One focus of VR is transitioning students from school to work. VR helps students with disabilities train for a job, continue their education, and/or find a job after high school.»» Four additional programs receive funding through VR. The Adults with Disabilities program provides funds to 42 school districts and 8 state colleges to give adults and senior citizens with disabilities who are unlikely to enter the workforce skills consistent with their abilities and needs. The Independent Living Program provides services through a statewide network of private non-profit, non-residential, locally-based, and consumer-controlled Centers for Independent Living. The Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology (FAAST) provides assistive technology products and services. The Able Trust partners with VR on High School- High Tech to provide transition services to high school students with disabilities.»» According to the 2012 American Community Survey Year Estimate, there are 2.3 million Floridians age 16 and over who have a disability. Of those, only 17.3%, or 402,665, are employed.»» In > > 7,214 VR customers became gainfully employed > > Average hours worked per week was > > Average hourly earnings was $11.15 > > Projected average annual earnings was $17,536 > > Total projected earnings in the first year was $126,503,044 > > Median monthly case load per counselor of 105 > > For every $1 invested in rehabilitating the customer, an estimated $10.73 was returned to the economy 3

4 PERFORMANCE HIGHLIGHTS Nate Quillen Ft. Walton Beach/Kentucky 4 At 24 years old, Nate Quillen was at the top of his game. He was a pro golfer with nothing standing in his way. One night his vehicle crashed, leaving him with a major spinal cord injury. Doctors said he d never walk again. It was so devastating, Nate said. When they said, you ll never be able to walk again, I couldn t accept that. I ve always been independent and wanted to do more. After just three months of physical therapy, Nate was proving his doctors wrong, I can t say I looked graceful walking around, you know, but I was walking. Even with this accomplishment, it was clear to Nate that his years of golfing professionally were over. He turned to Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) for help. I was given three choices after taking a test (at VR): I could be a toll booth operator, an insurance adjuster, or I could go back to school, Nate said. For me it wasn t a choice. I went ahead and enrolled in school. VR provided my tuition and books and gave me a gasoline allowance. In 2010, Nate earned his degree. Within a year, he was gainfully employed with Premiere Tox in Kentucky as a toxicology analyst. Nate is wonderful. You won t find a better team player, his manager, Kristi Swearengin, said. Nate recently was promoted to team leader. His supervisors know he s an asset to their company. When you see Nate walk into a room, you know he has some physical limitations, Kristi said. But when you talk with him, you realize he hasn t lost anything. Employers should think about that and see where they can fit in. We ve found a place for him, and he is excelling.

5 Edwin Diaz Orlando The next time you re shopping at Disney s Days of Christmas store in Downtown Disney, that friendly face at the cash register could be Edwin Diaz. Edwin, who has cerebral palsy and a mild intellectual disability, is thrilled to have his first official job thanks, in part, to VR. Working at Disney is a good fit for me, and I m happy to be here, he says. Edwin worked hard, volunteered long hours and put a lot of energy into finding a job to get him where he is today. He s very professional, says VR Counselor Naseana Francis. He just needed to be given the opportunity to show he could do the job. Edwin first came to VR in high school as a transition student. Against all odds, he graduated high school with a regular diploma. He met with Naseana, and they decided he should attend Mid Florida Tech. VR helped pay for his tuition and books. After he graduated, Edwin worked with his job coach, Susan Bronislawski of Hands On Education, on his interviewing and job skills. She encouraged Edwin to volunteer with different companies and gain job experience to include on his resume. Edwin finally landed an interview at Disney. They were very impressed and offered him a job, but not just any job. They wanted to find a good fit for Edwin where the bus could drop him off, he could get to work easily, and he could use his training and job skills. He did everything we asked him to do, and now there s no holding him back, says Susan. He hopes to stay with the company and move up in the future. For now, he s happy to work and volunteer for extra hours, as needed. 5

6 PERFORMANCE HIGHLIGHTS 6 Renee Proctor Ocala Renee Proctor s list of disabilities is a long one. She s in constant pain, has dystonia, a neuromuscular movement disorder that distorts her muscles in a painful way and can put her in the hospital for days at a time, and has multiple lung issues, but that didn t stop her from graduating Phi Theta Kappa with honors from the College of Central Florida. Renee has come so far! says Stacy Duscher, her VR counselor. She s such a beautiful person and always has a great attitude. She s the only person I ve worked with who can go to the hospital three times in a college semester and still get A s in all of her classes. Renee credits her mom with instilling a positive attitude in her from a young age. After graduation with her Associate s degree in health information technology, Renee managed to land her dream job. She works in Student Services for the College of Central Florida tutoring special needs students in various subjects, although she says she tries to avoid math. She s proud to say that she s brought around some failing students to passing their classes. I m doing something I love, and that s helping people, she says. Renee is grateful to Stacy and VR for staying with her through all of her disabilities and helping her complete her degree so she could gain employment. Throughout the process while Renee s disabilities continued to mount, Stacy made sure she provided Renee with counseling and guidance for emotional support as well as tuition help, a wheelchair with a lift, vehicle and home modifications, a laptop, and dental and medical assistance.

7 Juan Carlos Morales Ft. Lauderdale Juan Carlos Morales was told by doctors that he wouldn t live past his teenage years. But Juan, who has Muscular Dystrophy, proved them all wrong. He turns 30 this year and has a thriving career as a psychologist working with at risk teenagers. Life has a purpose, and I need to fulfill mine, he said. Juan was referred to VR when he was a senior in high school. He met with VR Counselor Julie Emerson, who helped him plan for his future. Having dreamed of becoming a rap artist since high school, VR paid Juan s tuition to Broward Community College so he could train as a recording engineer. Along the way, he changed his mind and decided his long-term goal was to help others. He transferred to Florida International University (FIU) where, with help from VR, he completed his bachelor s degree in psychology. He continued at FIU on his own dime and received his master s degree in counseling psychology. It was during an internship for school that Juan first worked with adolescents and discovered that he loved the way they opened up to him. He knew it was where he belonged. Juan now works at the Regis House, a CARFaccredited facility that works with at-risk teenagers with drug and behavioral problems. He provides group and individual therapy and also prepares reports for court hearings. I love it and want to do more of it, Juan said. Juan serves as the local ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and makes an appearance each year during its annual telethon. In his spare time, he attends numerous events and is a motivational speaker. 7

8 PERFORMANCE HIGHLIGHTS 8 Mike Milita Ft. Myers There s an old saying, your life can change in an instant. Mike Milita never thought it would happen to him, but it did. A motorcycle accident changed his life in an instant. While riding with his motorcycle group, a young woman changed lanes suddenly and hit the left side of his bike and his leg. Mike couldn t feel any pain and thought everything was fine until he looked down and saw that his left leg was turned in the opposite direction. It had broken in 10 places and three inches of his tibia had vanished. Unfortunately, Mike developed osteomyelitis, a bone infection, and had to make the difficult decision of how to proceed. After considering the importance of his quality of life, he decided to have his leg amputated. While he was recuperating and unable to work, Mike was supported by Medicare. When he was ready to go back to work, they suggested he use his Ticket to Work. He was given a list of employment networks, and he chose VR for services. Mark Guthrie became his counselor. Mike always had an interest in the medical field, and Mark agreed to send him to the nursing program at Edison State College. VR paid for Mike s tuition and books. He graduated at the top of his class with a 3.96 GPA and an associate s degree in nursing. Mike is currently working full-time as a critical care nurse in the emergency room at Lee Memorial Hospital in Ft. Myers. He is also working toward his bachelor s degree in nursing and hopes to continue his career.

9 Marcus Huepenbecker Bay Pines Last summer when Marcus was a student he was working on a small-piece folder, said Carl Eagan, laundry operations specialist at the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). He was watching people around him and keeping up with experienced people. I told him, If you re consistent, I ll consider you for full time, and he did it. Marcus Huepenbecker, who has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and explosive anger management issues, has found a job that he loves. With VR s help, he was hired as a laundry worker at the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System in He found out about VR through a teacher at his high school. I wouldn t have this job if it wasn t for VR, said Marcus. His VR counselor, Kristie Berger, recommended Job Coach Christy Brown with Placement Works to help him with the application process including helping create his resume, fill out applications, and more. VR also helped Marcus with transportation costs and working on his anger and impulsivity issues that had caused problems on past jobs. They helped me understand the ups and downs of the job, Marcus said. Carl, his supervisor at the VA laundry, had worked with VR in other states and was familiar with the process. VR helped me by being there and working with me. They helped me teach him to respect having a job. Marcus has been a great asset to his job. His supervisor and coworkers enjoy working with him daily. Marcus is doing an excellent job performing above expectations, said Carl. His personality and work ethic help improve our unit. 9

10 PERFORMANCE HIGHLIGHTS Lindsay Penney Vero Beach Lindsay has a remarkable memory like a computer. When we re doing an event, she s very helpful. She keeps up with who called in, who s RSVPed, and what needs to be done. This wonderful person Michael Kint, CEO for United Way of Indian River County, is talking about is office assistant, Lindsay Penney. Lindsay, who has a learning disability, began her career with the United Way more than seven years ago when she and her mother, Karen Penney, started volunteering. Lindsay enjoyed volunteering but wanted to find a permanent job, so she came to VR. She began working with VR Counselor Joanne Jung. A job-skills assessment showed that with her excellent typing skills (she can type 70 words a minute), an office job would be the best route for her. Lindsay took a few classes at Indian River State College to improve her office skills. Joanne brought in SunUp ARC so they could work with Lindsay to develop more personal skills. Counselors at SunUp ARC talked to Michael with the United Way about offering Lindsay a part-time position since the agency didn t have a full time job available. He agreed to give her a chance. Lindsay works part-time answering the phone in the morning and then usually stays and volunteers in the afternoons. She is an all-purpose assistant, working wherever they need help. Lindsay s a real fixture here. She s well-liked and respected, says Michael. Joanne is very proud of Lindsay. The growth that she has demonstrated has been amazing. She is a real asset to the United Way. 10

11 Gary Virgin Ft. Walton Beach At one time incarcerated for armed robbery and addicted to drugs, when Gary Virgin came to VR in 2006, he was a selfdescribed broken man. He also had degenerative cervical disc disease and orthopedic problems. He was attending The Family Café, a conference held in Orlando for people with disabilities, when he found himself at the VR booth. After that conference, I came home and wrote a letter to VR and explained my situation, said Gary. The letter was forwarded to VR Counselor Diane Jackson. Two weeks later, he had an appointment with her. The quick sequence of events scared him because he didn t want to lose his only source of income, Medicare. I was scared getting a job would cancel my Medicare payments, said Gary. Diane was instrumental in helping Gary find his path. She conducted the initial interview with him and then followed up with a job skills test to see what his strengths were. He just needed direction and once he got that, he ran with it, said Diane. VR paid for Gary s bachelor s and master s degrees in social work at Florida State University in Panama City and assisted with surgeries and transportation to school. Gary had a tough time finding a job after graduating because of his past incarceration. However, he actually managed to turn it into an asset when he got his new job as an addictions counselor with The Unlimited Path, a company that offers substance abuse, mental health, and re-entry services at Walton Correctional Institute. Gary is currently studying to take his licensure exam in social work and giving lectures for the state. 11

12 PERFORMANCE HIGHLIGHTS Michael Benders Tampa When Michael Benders first met VR Counselor Rockne Lee, he was homeless and a recovering drug addict with a personality disorder, but he was determined to turn his life around. Rockne helped Michael find a place at the homeless shelter and started working with him to provide the services he needed to get back on his feet and working again. Rockne connected Michael with Job Coach Jason Bray at Hope Services. Jason helped Michael create a resume, practice interviewing, and look for a job. It was difficult for Michael to find a job because of his former drug addiction and incarceration. He went on a number of job interviews, but they all fell through. Michael used the skills Jason taught him to find a job at the Flying Pan, a new restaurant in Tampa. As the restaurant was being built, Michael would often pass the construction site, and he struck up a conversation with the owner, offering to work in the restaurant doing whatever was needed. The Flying Pan decided to give him a chance and allowed Michael to do maintenance for the restaurant. He continues to prove his outstanding work ethic and now, along with washing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen, he is responsible for the prep work of the crepes that are the signature dish for the restaurant. Jason is very proud of Michael and says, His manager, Sara, says that they couldn t ask for a better employee. Sara feels that Michael s positive attitude at work is what makes him such an influential part of the team. He s definitely a glass half full kind of guy. Michael is happy with his new job and is thriving. 12

13 Aaron Hosterman Ocala When an injury cost Aaron Hosterman his job, and his disability led to problems finding new employment, he turned to VR for help. Aaron met with VR Counselor Stacy Duscher who helped him get the services he needed to get back to work. Aaron had previously worked in the leather business, and he knew there was a need in Ocala for leather repair services. So, he and Stacy discussed his options and decided that self-employment would be a good fit, and Aaron s Equine Express was born. Equine Express is a mobile tack shop, said Aaron. Instead of the horse person going to a tack shop to purchase products, replacements, or have repairs done, I take the tack shop to them. I have a full inventory of basic grooming supplies, as well as the machine to repair leather goods and replace them. VR paid for Aaron s back surgery. After that, VR contracted with Laura Coffee Richardson to help Aaron develop a business plan to guide his new business venture. She also offered assistance in setting up and marketing his business. VR provided Aaron with a trailer, industrial-strength sewing machine, computer, marketing items, beginning inventory, and business insurance. He has a friend helping him with the accounting for the business. I ve been working with Voc Rehab for almost two years now, and without them I couldn t have done this, he says. Aaron is grateful to VR and Stacy for all of the help they ve given him, so he could get back on his feet again. I couldn t have done this without them. I would definitely recommend VR to someone that needs it. 13

14 PERFORMANCE HIGHLIGHTS 14 Stephanie Perkins Miami Stephanie Perkins, who has Down s syndrome, has a dream, and she s determined to make it come true. My dream is to become a famous model, she says. I model at the mall and competed in the Model of the Year competition in New York City. I also wish to be on TV. I want to make people aware of people with disabilities because we re part of the community. Her Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) counselor, Erline Exume, is confident she can do it. You can t put any limitations on her. She wants to do it all. She doesn t see herself as someone with a disability, so you can t see her that way either. But first, Stephanie wanted to get a job and become more independent. Stephanie came to VR while she was still in high school. She was so determined, persistent, and willing to find a job that you had to feel the same way too to keep up with her, Erline explains. She paired Stephanie with job coach Kira Stadnik with Vision Community Development Corporation to help her find that job. Stephanie was eager to start working, says Kira, so they practiced interviewing techniques and reviewed her resume. Designs by Camillas had an opening for an office clerk, and with encouragement from Kira, Stephanie interviewed for the job and was hired. Kira is proud of Stephanie, She s a hard worker and all of the employees love to be around her. She follows directions well and is very responsible. Stephanie is excited to be working at Designs by Camillas. The people are nice at my work. I m saving my money to buy a car, and I m going to get my drivers license.

15 Her supervisor, Erika Mejia, Vice President at Designs by Camillas, has high praise for Stephanie. We re glad to have Stephanie working for us. We agree that it is very important for persons with disabilities to be employed and enhance their independence. Stephanie also gives back to the community by helping children with disabilities. She volunteers at the ARC of Kendall as a teacher s assistant. Although modeling is her ultimate dream, Stephanie is happy to be working in a job she enjoys while continuing to pursue her other activities on the side. Kira sums it up, Stephanie s doing a great job, and she ll go many places in life with her positive attitude. Area Map 15

16 For more information, contact: (850) (800) TTY users dial 711 to connect with the telecommunications relay service (TRS). Video phone users can call through the video relay service (VRS). AbilitiesWork.EmployFlorida.com

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