When I graduated from Trocaire College with an associate degree in Hospitality, I hoped to continue my education at Buffalo State College, but life had other plans for me. I first had to delay my plans because of my son’s chronic respiratory condition but when we found out he had severe autism, I knew I needed to work to support us.
I started exploring my options but it is sometimes difficult for me to learn new skills because I have a learning disability and I also have difficulty with my short and long term memory from a car accident. However, I have developed some self-accommodating practices that help me. For example, I carry a notebook with me at all times so I don’t forget important things. I was determined but I knew I couldn’t do it on my own. I needed help.
I went to get help from the New York State Education Department’s ACCES-VR (Adult Career and Continuing Education Services-Vocational Rehabilitation) division. After they assessed my needs, I was referred to Goodwill of Western New York to help me put a plan in motion. My plan included case management, personalized training and work experience with the ultimate goal of becoming competitively employed. I was working with my local Goodwill employment services manager, and was hired at four different places but I had trouble making decisions in the workplace and was not able to keep any of the positions.
It wasn’t’ easy, but I wasn’t going to quit and I was determined to take care of myself and my son! We soon realized that I would benefit from supported employment where I would work with my job coach to find jobs that would better match my education. Once in a job, my coach would give me on-site workplace help and answer questions I would have while learning the new job.
In just two short weeks, a position became available at Delaware North for a reservations and sales agent in their Parks and Resorts division. I really felt that I was now ready to apply and succeed this time. I landed the job! My Goodwill job coach worked by my side me every day for the first two weeks to help me complete my required training and develop peer support network at work. If I ever needed anything, she was just a phone call away. I could not have done it without her!
In my role, I help individuals around the country book resort vacations at Delaware North properties. My job requires me to have a combination of customer service skills and personality. In my sales role, I help customers purchase upgrade packages and maintain sales goals set by Delaware North as well as resort specific sales goals. Recently, I was given the responsibilities of an on-site supervisor on an as-needed basis for 30 of my peers!
I used to think I would never be able to keep a job, but through my dedication, hard work and the support I received from Goodwill, I now have a job that I love. I’m in the top 10% in sales and was the May 2016 salesperson of the month. I even won a weekend at one of Delaware North’s resorts because of my exceptional performance! I’ve been recognized for referring other qualified Goodwill clients to Delaware North.
With my renewed confidence, I feel I am ready to go back to school. I’ve enrolled at Buffalo State College to pursue a degree in Hospitality Management while continuing to work at Delaware North. I want to be the best example possible for my young son.