Sarah sits at a panel table giving a presentation

ODP Employment Symposium – Employment Spotlight

Each Summer the Office of Developmental Programs hosts a Regional Employment Symposium, inviting current and future employers, local education specialists, intermediate units, ODP employment/community participation supports, residential providers, supports coordinators, transition counselors and OVR business liaisons. At the symposium, a panel of employers, job coaches and self-advocates are compiled to share why they hired individuals with developmental disabilities and self-advocates are given the opportunity to describe how having a job has made a difference in their lives.

Meet Sara! She has been linked with Achieva job supports since 2021 after her small group employment contract job at Owens and Minor came to an end. At that time, she was determined to be competitively employed in the community. At 47 years old Sara shared that she landed her first job out of high school with help from OVR at a local Burger King. She worked the fryer and remembered flipping burgers on the grill. Fast forward to 2022, with aide from her supportive employment job coach, April, she was able to explore a few local restaurants in the Greensburg area to get back into food and beverage. It was that February; her job coach found a posting for Red Lobster. After a phone call, there was a request for an interview that same day and Sara was hired on the spot. The rest is history. Sara loves her job and is not afraid to share with anyone who asks her about her experience.

Sara stands smiling with her arms around two smiling women

At Red Lobster, Sara started rolling silverware during her shifts and quickly mastered that skill, adding the bussing of tables to her work experience. According to her job coach, Sara fits into the work team at Red Lobster with her vibrant, happy, and encouraging personality. Sara gets along well with her two managers and attributes a lot of her work skills to her co-worker Mary, who taught her the on-the-job skills. Sara is a dream employee, rarely calling off, showing up on time and eager to pick up extra shifts. While on the job, she is attentive, on-task and her work ethic shines.  

Sara was invited by ODP to speak during the panel discussion at the Monarch Institute in Butler this June, alongside one other self-advocate from the Butler area to share her story of employment experience and obstacles from high school to present. Supports Coordinator, Casey Bevan and Sara’s job coach through Achieva, April Loughner were also present with her on the panel to share her employment history and how ODP related services have assisted her in this process. Casey, shared that Sara is one client who is very determined with the choices she makes for her life. She is very active with her services, in her community and lives a goal-oriented and active lifestyle. Aside from her positive work ethic, her team is very proud of her for living independently in her own apartment since October of 2022. Sara is managing public transportation through GO Westmoreland to get to and from her job independently.

Representatives from the Office of Developmental Programs, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, and the Westmoreland County BH/DS shared with Sara and her team that she was a phenomenal addition to the panel, and they enjoyed hearing about her positive work experience. Sara was the last to speak after the rest of the presenters at the symposium and shared her final thoughts with the room full of professionals, “I love my job!”