The blog this week was written by Deborah Warfield, a Community Broker at The Arcadia Institute. Hopes, dreams and aspirations require resources. At the Arcadia Institute we understand the value of persons with disabilities deserving to actualize their hopes, dreams and aspirations. Hence, we include employment as one of our very important goals that we assist participants in being able to obtain. This journey varies with each and every individual. Follow along as Erika shares a few excerpts as a participant in the Community Brokering process involving her journey towards employment.
In Erika's case, she has been gaining employability skill sets as a volunteer over the past few years. Because, Erika recognized during this process that she needed first and foremost to find and exercise her own voice regarding her overall readiness for employment. It's one thing to roll out and just get any job. It's another thing to be able to sustain employment doing work that matters and that is a good match.
One of her first stops along the journey included her volunteering as an Administrative Assistant with New Genesis Education Center. "Learning new computer programs, navigating there and back independently, being a part of a team who was involved with students and their lives. I had deadlines that I had to meet. Getting in the habit of dressing up professionally on a daily basis." Since no experiences are wasted even "having to create a new newsletter every week came with pressures but also brought out the creativity that was there but kinda hidden below the surface."
Not every road was easy for Erika but still and all yielded lessons learned. "Once the volunteer projects end it was frustrating having to look for new opportunities at different sites." There were also several times when maintaining the balance between motivation and preplanned annual family vacations collided. "It was hard to get back in the groove. Self motivation was not as strong, too." "Jobs are important but so is maintaining family relationships. People with disabilities rely on family for strength and encouragement and on the flip side also become discouraged at times by family regarding employment."
Overtime Erika has gained strength, confidence and self-esteem. Now "I currently volunteer for Connect Kalamazoo in hopes to use those skill sets to add to my resume. My socialization opportunities and community circle connections have increased. Being a part of something that lets me be get out there more and gain more knowledge about the community and what other opportunities exist for people with disabilities."
Lastly, "I think with now being involved in the partnership with MRS/Arcadia Institute I will be exposed to even more job-related training opportunities. Years ago was not a fit for me with MRS because I did not have the self-confidence that has been gained through the Community Brokering process of finding my voice and being more exposed to pre employment." "I have found that self-employment is actually the best fit for me at this time." Erika suggests "that self-confidence and believing in yourself can often take time." It continues to be a community team effort and the timing must be best for Erika or it's merely another statistic.