October is National Disability Awareness Month (NDEAM)! This year’s NDEAM theme is “The Right Talent, Right Now.” This theme emphasizes the essential role that people with disabilities play in America’s economic success. We know at Challenge Unlimited and Residential Options how individuals with disabilities add significant value and talent to our workforce every single day. One example of this is Kenneth, a client who worked with our Employment Services Division in 2017. His success story is below:
In 2011, Kenneth experienced a life-changing event that left him clinging for his life. Ever the fighter, Kenneth spent many years recovering from this incident, completing physical and speech therapy multiple times a week along with many other doctor appointments. Kenneth had to relearn basic skills including things like learning how to talk and walk again. He had incredible support from his entire family during this time, especially from his mother who quit working in order to help him recover.
After years of recovery, Kenneth came to Challenge Unlimited in November 2017. At the time, Kenneth had yet to have a successful employment experience, did not have a high school diploma, and had a previous legal record from events prior to his life-changing experience. During his time job searching, Kenneth worked with his Challenge Unlimited Job Coach to find a solution to his barriers to employment. Kenneth participated in our Employment Services Division’s Job Club on a regular basis and never missed an appointment. He was prepared, on time, and very involved in the job seeking process. Using the skills he acquired at Job Club, Kenneth attended a specialized Job Fair in St. Louis and connected with Wendy’s restaurants in April 2018. He interviewed at one of the company’s locations and was offered a crew member position on the spot!
Since that time, Kenneth has been enjoying his spot on the Wendy’s team as an “opener”. He was able to gain more hours and learn additional tasks, and he now works a total of 24 hours per week. He is an asset to his team, and his managers and co-workers have noted his exceptional work and positive attitude. He’s even received multiple raises due to his hard work and contribution to his employer.
Kenneth’s time working in the community has enabled him to help support his two children and take vacations like a cruise to the Bahamas! Kenneth states he enjoys the freedom and independence that having a job affords him. His future goals include continuing to work for Wendy’s and to “make people smile every day!” He also has goals to obtain a GED and get his own place one day.
When asked about his experience with Challenge Unlimited and gaining community employment, he stated he “would do it again” indicating that he would recommend Challenge and community employment to others with disabilities.
Kenneth’s advice to others living with a disability is to “not look down, but look up!” According to Kenneth, this kind of mindset has been the largest contributing factor to his success in moving forward in life and in finding and keep a job.