Joanna McVicker is GII’s 2012 Kenneth Shaw Graduate of the Year
My story began when I was kicked in the head by a horse at the age of four. Because of this accident, I have a life-long brain injury that affects the way in which I retain and process information. This injury caused me to study differently in elementary, middle and high school.
Even after I graduated from high school, I continued to have difficulty finding and maintaining a job. If I got a job, I did not have an understanding of my disability, which often resulted in the employer letting me go; or I would make mistakes out of fear, which led to me being just an average employee with no hopes of progressing with the company.
Then in August of 2010, I was referred to Goodwill Industries of Monocacy Valley for an intake. The case manager carefully read my file and asked me questions for clarification. She and my Department of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) counselor realized that I needed something not only structured, but also focused on vocational and cognitive strategies— something that would help me with daily life skills as well.
At that time Goodwill Industries of Monocacy Valley had just started an ABI (Acquired Brain Injury Program). This program offered a combination of vocational and cognitive skills. The program was taught by an instructor with a brain injury who was able to understand my issues, as she was living with the same things that I was struggling so much with.
After completing this 8-week program, my confidence level increased, I became capable of organizing my thoughts better, and I began to recognize my strengths. This program provided me with the courage to take advantage of several other programs at Goodwill. I attended numerous job readiness workshops, took computer classes, and even participated in an event to raise awareness of brain injuries.
I am now employed in a job that I truly enjoy, and for the first time I feel empowered in my life.
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