Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mentoring Day is all about “You Can”

By Keith Hosey

We just finished up another Disability Mentoring Day (DMD) here in Louisville, an event that is nationally coordinated by the American Association of People with Disabilities. This was the seventh year the Center has been the city-wide coordinator. I’m happy to say I view it as a wonderful success. Yes, we had transportation issues and logistical issues and a couple people are going to shadow at a later date because we couldn’t secure a location in time, but over 60 individuals with disabilities and their mentors got to experience something extraordinary. Every year, I hear so many wonderful things from both mentors and mentees.

At the heart of DMD is the message, “You Can” and that may be why I love the event so much. Our one-on-one mentees get positive, real life work experiences, some with professionals who have disabilities themselves. Our group event with Jefferson County Public Schools shows students with disabilities career opportunities and identifies the skills and education that are necessary to achieve those goals. They hear from several working professionals with disabilities about their experiences and what it took for them to be successful. Our host companies and employers who host mentees have a great experience and often want to host the next year.

I wanted to share my favorite DMD story, which embodies the “You Can” attitude. I’d like to tell you about Annie and her success. Annie uses a wheelchair. She graduated college and began working with the Center for Accessible Living and Vocational Rehabilitation to find a job. She applied for jobs; she shadowed a mentor one year for Disability Mentoring Day and has since told me that the half-day experience gave her the confidence to secure her next job (at a fortune 500 company). Unfortunately that job didn’t work out.

She lost the job, but didn’t let the setback get her down. She looked for another job and didn’t find one right away. She dug in, she didn’t give up. She eventually saw a job open at the very place she shadowed at several years prior. She was remembered, she was hired and she still works there.

Now she pays it forward as a mentor and motivator. Every Disability Mentoring Day she mentors other people. The last two years, she has also spoken to high school students with disabilities on Mentoring Day about working. Annie often thanks the Center for Accessible Living and me for helping her along the way, but really, I have to thank her for having the motivation that we should all have, regardless of ability. While Annie is often my example of what DMD can help someone achieve, she is by far not the only story. Here’s to next year being even better.

Photo Credit Keith Hosey

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