David Ogletree is a Final Inspection Processor in the Power Sewing Division of Vocational Guidance Services (VGS) in Cleveland, Ohio. Early in his life, David was diagnosed with autism. David’s autism has presented him with many challenges, particularly in dealing with social interactions and his ability to maintain employment. But David was determined to overcome his barriers in order to earn his own paycheck and live an independent life. He committed himself to his training and his work at VGS. David works in a large and noise-filled production area and has taken steps to make himself more comfortable, and therefore more productive, in this environment that is so challenging for him.
Through the AbilityOne program, VGS produces 100% of the women’s dress slacks for the United States Army and Navy, and the vast majority for the Marine Corps. VGS is proud to hold these prestigious contracts, and the employees in the Power Sewing Division take a special pride in their work supporting our armed forces. As a Final Inspection Processor in the Power Sewing Department, David has to be able to meet VGS’ and the U.S. Army, Navy, and Marine Corps’ high quality standards. It is a high-profile position and one for which David trained intensively. David strives for continuous improvement in his work and is committed to being a dependable employee. When David came to VGS, he was able to set personal goals for himself. As a result of his experience working at VGS through the AbilityOne program, he is able to continuously work to achieve those goals.
In May, David was honored at the NISH National Conference in Orlando, FL as the 2010 William M. Usdane National Award winner. The William M. Usdane Award is presented each year to an individual with severe disabilities who has exhibited outstanding achievement and exceptional character as an employee in the AbilityOne Program. The award is named for the late William M. Usdane, former Assistant Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), who worked tirelessly on behalf of people with disabilities. Attending the conference was a special experience for David; he had always been uncomfortable in crowds and speaking publicly, but his moving speech at the conference was a huge success for him and was met with a standing ovation.
David Ogletree serves as an example to other consumers at VGS, especially those who live with autism and experience many of the same challenges. David’s success proves that with the proper supports in place, persons with severe disabilities can be successful in all their endeavors. Through hard work and critical supports David been able to achieve a successful balance in his work life that was not previously possible for him. David now has the tools to assist him in achieving a fulfilling life and he looks forward to a brighter future.
At age 19, Charles Slone sustained a severe traumatic brain injury when he was run over by a front-end loader at work. The accident also resulted in multiple orthopedic and internal injuries, contusions, and lacerations. Since the accident, Charles has required an enormous amount of medical and rehabilitative treatment, including 22 surgeries. He was unable to work at all for almost 10 years, and there were times during those years that Charles thought his life was basically over. In 2007 Charles came to VGS for work adjustment, training, and placement services and was placed in a job in the mailroom at the IRS-Cleveland Center. This job has been the affirmation of recovery that has in fact saved Charles’ life by giving him a sense of worth and accomplishment again. While he has suffered some pain management and endurance issues due to his physical disabilities, Charles has gained the self-confidence and the perseverance to meet those challenges head on and carry on with his work every day.
Through his hard work with VGS, Charles was able to re-enter the workforce after 10 long years of trying to get his health back and not being able to work. The job opportunity he was given at the IRS through VGS’ Social Enterprise has enabled Charles to provide financial stability for himself and his family and has allowed him to regain his self-esteem. Charles is once again contributing his time, his talent, and his amazing positive outlook to others. He always has a cheerful attitude toward his work, he consistently exhibits outstanding customer service and organizational skills, he has an excellent attendance record, and he has achieved superb job knowledge over the last three years. With his exceptional work ethic, Charles is a valued part of the IRS mailroom team and sets a fine example for others as someone who chooses to focus on his abilities rather than his disabilities.
Charles says he’s grateful for his work—a truly amazing sentiment when you consider all he’s been through. He loves being able to take care of his family, especially his newborn baby girl. Charles is making his brighter future a reality!
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Taquilla, a young woman whose barriers to employment include a developmental disability as well as deafness, came to Vocational Guidance Services frustrated due to her lack of communication skills outside of sign language. Taquilla had a deep desire to overcome those barriers so that she could obtain her brighter employment future.
At VGS, Taquilla met with our vocational rehabilitation staff to determine her employment goals and design a plan to accomplish them. Her plan began in our Custodial Work Adjustment Program. Thanks to this program Taquilla received vocational training through paid work experience and developed critical job keeping behaviors such as punctuality, productivity, and work-appropriate appearance, as well as many others.
Taquilla’s Job Coach/Interpreter noted that she has seen a change in Taquilla and that VGS’ custodial work adjustment training program has enabled her to acquire the proper skills to succeed; Taquilla now understands what is expected of her by her employer. She comes to work on time, in work –appropriate attire, and she works hard to achieve the goals she has set for herself. In fact, her supervisor has noted that her general outlook and behavior have changed a great deal. Taquilla loves working at VGS and recommends that many of her friends who are deaf attend the Work Adjustment Program.
Today, Taquilla is a member of a custodial crew that is responsible for the daily maintenance of two large facilities (over 130,000 square feet). Taquilla’s custodial supervisor says that “she has become a leader in her program and has even begun to train some of the other consumers who work with her.”
Each year thousands of individuals facing physical/mental disabilities or other barriers to employment come to VGS with hope for a brighter future. Each week 1,000 individuals overcome their barriers and collect a paycheck thanks to the innovative vocational rehabilitation programs and social enterprise work opportunities that are offered at VGS.