One of the most effective ways to show that Employment First works is to tell success stories. We plan to tell a new success story every few months on the home page of this web site. As we feature new people there, we’ll move the older stories back to this page. The older stories you see here are just as important as the newer ones are in conveying the message: When Everyone Works, Everyone Wins.
Five Delawareans with disabilities are profiled on their paths to employment.
My name is Jack and I work for Movies 10. I’ve been there since August, 2017. I like this job because the commute is easier for me than my previous job. It’s closer to home. I love my job and I am proud of my job. I have co-workers who are nice and I am good at my job. It was hard to leave my friends at my other job but I had help from my Employment Specialist, Andrew. My Employment Navigator was the best. I love getting free popcorn! I am saving my money. I volunteer at the Fire House when I am not working. I help keep the Fire Engines clean.
My name is Tom and I have always loved plants. After high school, Tom got a job working for a local florist. However, he did not get to work with the plants as he planned. Even though he did not get to work with the plants, he stayed at that job for 15 years until his position was eventually eliminated. After his position was eliminated, he eventually became a consumer at St. John's. Working with the Employment navigator at St. John's, two years ago, Tom found his current position at Lowe’s Home Improvement in Wilmington. Now, Tom is a resident expert on hydration and plant care, and continues to take on new responsibilities. He makes great money too! Tom’s passion for plants has been an asset to his team and workplace. Judith, the HR Manager for the store recently said, “Tom is a huge part of our Lowe’s family and we are so proud of him.” According to Lowe’s inclusivity statement, 'inclusion means creating a place where everyone has the opportunity to grow and succeed.' We thank Lowe’s for their commitment to inclusion and for living out their corporate values – it is evident in Tom’s success.
My name is Kendall and I work at Camp Bow Wow. I earn a check to buy things which teaches me how to be independent with my finances. I enjoy working with animals and contributing to my community. My job was easy because my teachers at Project SEARCH found the job for me before I graduated. Project SEARCH helped me. I told the teachers that I wanted to work with animals and they found me the job at Camp Bow Wow in April, months before I graduated. I love working with the animals, all the different kinds of dogs. I like working with co- workers.
My name is Justin and I work at Christiana Care in the Pharmacy. It was easy to find my job. I was in Project Search and I got a job offer to work there. I had help from Ms. Angie, my old teacher, and I had my fingers crossed! I like sorting meds. I sort the Wilmington bucket. My job coach is Jada and she helps me by checking in on me. She knows I’m independent so she comes less. Having a job makes me happy. I’m so happy to do it!
My name is Juan and I work at Panera Bread in Dover. Juan’s work reputation preceded him as a former manager of his now works for Panera and as soon as he found out Juan had applied, he made it clear that he wanted Juan to work for him, stating that "he was the best employee he had ever worked with." As a result, the hiring process was expedited and Juan was hired right away. "My job helps me be more independent and pay my bills." Juan is supported by St. John’s Community Services and the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR).
My name is Phillip and I work at Shoprite. Working makes me feel good and powerful. I work hard for my boss, Carly. I like my co-workers. They support me and they have my back. My job was easy to find because my mom works there. It’s been hard to find a new job, but I have help. I like my job because I like getting a paycheck. I’m saving up my money. I like the hard work that I do.
My name is Aaron and I work at Greater Newark Boys and Girls Club in Reception. I am supported by the Division of Visually Impaired (DVI) and St. John’s Community Services.“My favorite part of my job is greeting the kids at the Club -- They call me Mr. Aaron and are so full life! I love my job, it is a dream come true. I have my life full now too.”
My name is Rachel and I work at Christiana Care in the Human Resources Department. I like working with people. It makes me happy. I’m a shy person and working at Christiana Care has helped me feel more confident.Finding my job came easy because they were looking for somebody and I was looking for a job! I knew I liked the work. My teacher, Angie, helped me find my job. I like working because I like having things to do. I love my job! I am putting money aside for the future.
My name is Natalie and I work at Season’s Pizza. My job is a good fit because I like working with food! Sometimes I can be nervous but I know I can talk to my co-workers. Finding a job was really hard but I had help. It was really, really hard! I’ve worked there for two years and on Sundays, I look forward to going to work.
My name is Catherine and I work at the Newark Senior Center. The University of Delaware Career and Life Studies Certificate Program (CLSC)/St. John's Partnership developed an Internship that led to my paid job. St. John's Community Services supports me for work. My favorite thing about my job is being a part of the team.
My name is John and I work at Acme. Finding a job wasn’t hard but it was tedious. Having an Employment Specialist helped me. Work is important for me because it gives me something to do plus I need money! I like not having to worry too much about money and being able to afford care for my cat. I like being able to donate money when I can and I volunteer with Premiere Charity one to two times a month. I like knowing people at work.
My name is Bryan and I am a Porter/Courtesy Clerk at Giant in Middletown, DE. Having competitive employment has improved my life by giving me more to do, providing me with better opportunities and giving me something good to do with my time. Bryan stated it was not very difficult for him to find a job. He obtained his job after having his very first interview! He said he was so excited he literally jumped for joy. He says having Pathways to Employment helped him find a job a lot easier than he imagined. He obtained assistance from Pathways to Employment and Service Source. He identified his mother, Katrina Bradley, Yamma Hinton and Zandra Whitney as his primary supporters. Having daily face-to-face human interaction is his favorite thing about his job.
Tom Blatz is well-liked by all. Tom worked with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Sue Kamrath to begin his employment journey. He and DVR partnered with St. John's Community Services in 2015. His first position, at a local pharmacy, wasn't the right fit, b. But he did not become discouraged. Tom had expressed a keen interest in horticulture during the job discovery process, and he is now working full-time at Lowe's Garden Center, a job that he loves. He is truly the "guy next door", sharing his winning smile with his new co-workers and his community. Employment First was the right choice for Tom.
Jenna Seeman recalls that her vocational quest didn't get off to a great start when she arrived at ServiceSource in May 2011. However, she desperately wanted to obtain that first job. She worked hard with employment consultant Jim Crampton to turn things around. After several months of searching, a cashier's position opened up at Dover Save-a-Lot. Four years later, Jenna is still on the job part time at Save-a-Lot. But her career continues to develop. In 2014 she completed a Certified Nursing Assistant program at Delaware Tech. Jenna now also works as a licensed CNA at Genesis Milford Memorial Hospital. Nothing's holding her back!
Nick Fina's hearing loss has challenged him since before he started kindergarten in 1952. Between 1969 and 2009 he earned two degrees in chemistry, an MBA, and a doctorate in education. Today, in the 44th year of his professional career, he earns an income as a marketing and information technology consultant. As a volunteer, he works on behalf of others with disabilities. Although he no longer has an ability to hear with his ears, he functions in the hearing world with the help of cochlear implants and accommodations.
Lakeita Hannah returned to Delaware in 2011 after obtaining her bachelor's degree in marketing from Strayer University in Georgia. Following two years in a successful e-commerce business, she sought the help of the Division for the Visually Impaired in order to obtain work that would provide more financial security. With DVI's help, she located a customer service position at CapitalOne in the fall of 2014. She is able to do most of her work from home — a big plus. Lakeita has registered with CapitalOne's Career Consulting Program in order to pursue a marketing career.
Andrew Fischer was initially interested in pursuing a culinary arts career and entered the Food Bank of Delaware's culinary program. But within a month he determined it wasn't the employment path for him. Following seven months of handyman volunteer work with Edgemoor Community Center's maintenance department, an opening at Lowes Home Improvement Center came up in January 2015. Today, Andrew earns a paycheck at Lowe's assisting customers with locating, carrying, and loading merchandise into their vehicles.
After a childhood with low vision, Lloyd Schmitz lost his sight completely as a young adult. For more than 10 years he had no employment at all, struggling to raise a family. Finally, he entered a food service program and operated cafeterias and vending machines in state and federal buildings. This gave him the opportunity to buy a house, and then another larger one. Lloyd is an active member of the community, serving on several boards and commissions. He has been a member and president of two local Lions Clubs.
Alyssa Cowin, 24, is an operations support specialist in the office of Secretary of Health and Social Services Rita Landgraf. She works in the areas of human resources and public relations. Her responsibilities include taking pictures at events, posting pictures on the DHSS Facebook page, shredding papers, delivering mail, assembling information packets, and helping with office organization tasks. She credits her parents, Goodwill Industries, the Divisions of Vocational Rehabilitation and Developmental Disabilities Services, and others in helping her face challenges and work toward her goals.
Stephane Merritt has quadriplegia as a result of a 1976 swimming accident. For the past 19 years he has worked full time as an account specialist, paying bills for the Division of Fish and Wildlife. Being able to work gives him great satisfaction. "I can look myself in the mirror, knowing that I'm contributing to society," he says. With the help of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, he has his own van, so that he's not dependent on public transportation. Stephane is also delighted that the people he works with pay no attention to his wheelchair, viewing him as just another employee.
Santino Ceccotti is an Assistant Public Defender in the Appellate Unit of the Delaware Public Defenders Office. He currently chairs the Delaware State Bar Association Committee on legal professionals with disabilities. He also serves on the board of the Delaware chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. From 2011 to 2014 he served as a member of the Delaware State Bar Association Executive Committee. In 2012 Santino was the recipient of the Delaware State Bar Association's Profiles in Courage Award.
Brett Freeburg, Caprice Sedden, and Nick Godwin worked as concession station attendants at the 2015 home games of the Wilmington Blue Rocks. In the spring of 2015, the three had just completed their first year in the ServiceSource Delaware FrameWork for Success School to Careers program. Working on a two-on, one-off schedule, Brett, Caprice, and Nick were responsible for keeping all concession areas in Frawley Stadium clean and properly stocked with condiments, utensils, and paper products — a great addition to their resumes as they launch their careers.