NDEAM #SundaySuccessStory

Sandy Norman – Challenge Unlimited 

In honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) we will share success stories of how steady and dependable employment can improve the quality of life for those living with disabilities. Sandy is a perfect example of how meaningful employment can change someone’s life, create a sense of community, and help those living with disabilities to overcome setbacks. She is an individual who came to the program with anxiety, depression, and a learning disability, one that could have prevented her from ever working or becoming independent. Through the AbilityOne Program she has been able to not only overcome those struggles but has become an example to others and is thriving.  

Her learning disability started early in childhood. At birth, the umbilical cord was wrapped twice around her neck, and she was not expected to survive. While she did survive, due to her disabilities she lacked confidence and continued to struggle with learning new things, severe anxiety, and chronic depression. Sandy worked at a grocery store early in her career. During that time, she noticed her disabilities were becoming so unmanageable that she became unable to work.  

Sandy wanted to re-enter the workforce and joined the Great Lakes Grounds team in 2014. Her Project Manager said, “I recall Sandy’s interview as she was my first hire. She was so nervous that she asked her mother to sit in with her during the interview.” When she started the position, she had a tough time looking anyone in the eye, was intimidated at the thought of using the equipment, and even turned flush when she was directly spoken to. Overall, Sandy was very timid, and her supervisors feared that she might not be able to make it in a physically demanding and male dominated field. They quickly learned that was not the case at all. Within a month, Sandy was operating the necessary equipment and showed that she was a hard worker. Her co-workers noticed this too and she became a valuable member of the team.  

She started to show her leadership skills and entered the Client to Lead Program. She gained the confidence to use a riding mower and was asked to be a certified driver for the contract to move crews to and from work assignments. Again, she was hesitant as she was not experienced in pulling and backing trailers, but Sandy continued to show what an asset she had become to everyone that she works with. By 2015, she was driving a trailer full of mulch, hauling equipment as needed and was promoted to supervisor at Great Lakes. 

In her role as supervisor Sandy has obtained multiple certifications including becoming OSHA certified, as well as becoming an alternate Site Safety and Health Officer for the Great Lakes Contract. She is a licensed spray operator and can apply chemicals at the base too. She is also now certified in First Aid and CPR. She has become an advocate for others and attended the SourceAmerica Grassroots Conference to share her story and the importance of the AbilityOne Program for people like her.  

Sandy was recently promoted to Quality Control Manager at Challenge Unlimited for the Great Lakes Grounds contract and continues to show that she can do anything she sets her mind too. Sandy is a success story of an AbilityOne client who has become a leader, an asset to Challenge Unlimited, to her teammates, and to the contract at Great Lakes. She now has no trouble making eye contact, has mastered the tasks that once seemed unthinkable. Sandy is an exemplary employee and a beacon of hope for people living with disabilities who might lack the confidence to seek employment, try something different, get out of their comfort zone, and have faith in their own abilities.  

She said through the AbilityOne Program she has gained independence, confidence, and the ability to make better decisions while leading her crew. All skills that have helped her personally and professionally to be more outgoing. Her success through the AbilityOne Program is paramount to her dedication, drive, work ethic, and determination.  We are so proud of you Sandy and happy to have you on our team.

#NDEAM2022 #SundaySuccessStory #EmploymentStories #SandysStory

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