Tag Archives: career

Excited, Nervous, and So Proud

The following blog was written by Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program (RAMP) coordinator and Transition Program Coordinator, Jacquelyn Privitera.

While there are countless ways that my job is fulfilling, sometimes, there are stories that really take the cake. My job is to help youth gain the skills they need to become successful members of their communities. Success will, of course, look different for each of them as they plan their futures and set their own goals. If I have been successful at my own job, they will all have the confidence and support to pursue whatever “success” looks like to them.

I’ve learned over the last seven years that there is often a lot of potential hiding behind a seemingly quiet student. Norma Puente is my favorite example of this. When I first started working with her at Margaret Long Wisdom High School, she largely kept to herself but would always participate when it was asked of her. Her sweet demeanor and the kindness she always showed to her classmates (and her ability to avoid joining in when all the students around her started to get rowdy) lead me to invite her to our annual Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program Conference in Washington D.C. that summer. Never having been on a plane, she was equal parts excited and nervous, but ultimately so proud of being considered for the opportunity and representing Houston.

When we arrived in D.C., there were students from RAMP sites around the country and without a hint of nerves or trepidation, they all became fast friends. I’ve heard so many stories over the years from these students that making friends was hard for them, but at this conference, you’d absolutely never know it. There is an immediate sense of camaraderie and any walls that they had up fall with breakneck fervor. I’ve never left this annual conference without crying at least once. These kids are truly inspiring…and putting them all together in one room? It’s something to behold.

Part of being invited to the conference is that each student has to deliver a presentation about their future career goals or projects they’ve worked on at their respective RAMP sites that school year. Norma chose to present on Criminology which would soon be her college major. The previously reserved student lit up with apparent passion when she got to talk about her future. She would be the first member of her family to go to college. She would help people who needed her. She would make something of herself – and she couldn’t wait to do any of it.

Norma was then given the opportunity to join local students at the Teen and Police Service Academy; an important and amazing partnership between the Houston Police Department and the University of Houston Clear Lake designed for at-risk youth and police officer mentors. She said it made her feel like a leader and made her confident in speaking in front of groups all while giving her more insight into the future she was carefully preparing for herself. The next summer, I asked her to return to Washington D.C. with me. She was the leader of the pack; guiding all the students who attended and offering encouragement to nervous students giving their presentations for the first time. During a long silence where a student couldn’t bring himself to speak from fear, she stood up, told us all to cheer him on, and got us all clapping. After that, he gave a great presentation. And I really looked at Norma in awe.

She graduated high school in 2019 and has gotten right to work since then. She is working at Care Optical where she deals with prescriptions and sealing glasses and she is enrolled at Houston Community College in their Criminology Program – yep, the first one in her family to go to college. When she graduates, she plans to attend the police academy and go for her Bachelor’s degree in Criminology.

I keep in touch with Norma and when I recently asked her if she thinks RAMP helped her, she responded:

RAMP helped me in so many ways. This program helped me get on track with my career path and to think ahead to the future. It helped me to grow and allowed me to come out of my bubble and interact with other people with no problem. It made me a leader and because of this program I can say I have grown as a person and am doing better. It made me want to keep up with my studies and to become someone.”

I’m proud to be a part of her story and I am so proud to know her and all the incredible students I meet through Easter Seals Greater Houston’s RAMP and Transition Programs. If you’re wondering, being a mentor will never waste a single minute of your time.

Learn more about participating in Easter Seals Greater Houston’s RAMP Program as a mentor or mentee.

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Advance Auto Parts is Advancing Inclusion

Easter Seals Greater Houston, in partnership with Advance Auto Parts, the Easter Seals National office, and the James Emmett Company, has begun a project to recruit persons with disabilities for positions within Advance Auto Parts stores and the distribution center for the Houston region. Advance Auto Parts has a company-wide initiative to increase the number of employees who have disabilities throughout the company. Both full-time and part-time jobs, across all shifts, are available at three Advance Auto Parts stores in Houston and at their parts warehouse in north Houston. Houston is the fourth city in America where Advance has initiated this project. A similar project began in Dallas the same day as the Houston project. Advance has a goal of increasing the number of employees with disabilities in every state in which they have facilities.

Easter Seals staff have reached out to Texas Workforce Solutions (TWS) offices to include them in the partnership through their services for persons with disabilities. TWS can provide equipment an employee may need, job readiness, and job training and job coaching if an employee needs assistance on their job. We have also made information about this initiative available to the Easter Seals Veterans and THRIVE programs.

When a person with a disability wishes to apply for a job with Advance, they should go online to https://www.advanceautoparts.jobs/en-US/page/retail-careers to determine the job(s) for which they wish to apply and contact Robert Williams at RWilliams@eastersealshouston.org to make sure their information is given to the James Emmett Company, which will shepherd their application through the interview process. Persons who apply through this initiative will receive a job interview and extra points toward meeting the requirements for their chosen jobs.

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The ROI of Mentorship

The following story was written by Carmen Phillips. Carmen is the Montgomery County Program Coordinator for Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program and High School High Tech.

January 2021 is the 19th annual National Mentoring Month and I can’t help but wonder where we might all be right now without the influence of a mentor.  Imagine, for a moment, a world without Apple Computers, Microsoft or Facebook; a world without Oprah Winfrey, Mother Teresa or even Marlon Brando as the Godfather.  This, my friends is a world without mentors.  Some of the most successful and brilliant minds of the last century had one thing in common.  They all had a mentor.

So, what does it mean to be a mentor?  According to world-renowned speaker and author Bob Proctor, “A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself and helps bring it out of you.”  I’m sure many of you can dig deep and think back to a time in your life when you looked up to someone for direction or guidance and approval.   Someone who changed the trajectory of your life.   A coach, a teacher or a boss perhaps.  Or perhaps, like many young people in America you had no one.   Well, you wouldn’t be alone.  More than 1 in 3 young people, an estimated 16 million, never had an adult mentor of any kind while they were growing up, according the national report The Mentoring Effect published in 2014.  This population includes an estimated 9 million at-risk youth who will reach age 19 without ever having a mentor, making them less likely to graduate high school,  go on to college and lead healthy productive lives.

Photo of young adults and mentors

For those 9 million at-risk youth, mentorship is a life-line.  It’s make or break and sadly in some cases, life or death.   It takes one caring adult to take interest and invest just a little bit of time into a young person’s life to forever change its course. Whether it’s a attending a football game, an occasional bowling night, a weekly text or just checking in on their report card, the smallest investment in a youth’s life results in some of the largest gains.  Not only for the youth, but for the mentor and the community in which they live.  In fact, according to a study cited by David Shapiro, President and CEO of MENTOR, every dollar invested in quality youth mentoring programs yields a $3 return in benefits to society at a minimum.  I think it’s safe to say that even Warren Buffet (who, by the way, mentored Microsoft mogul Bill Gates) would consider that a pretty darn good Return On Investment (ROI). 

The Mentoring Effect study also found that 76% of at-risk young adults who had a mentor aspire to enroll in and graduate college and 45% of all at-risk youth with a mentor are now enrolled in some form of postsecondary education. So what do the numbers tell us? That mentoring makes a difference; it improves outcomes, it increases graduation rates, it reduces the risk of drug and alcohol use, it builds healthy interpersonal relationships and fosters measurable success in our at-risk youth in America.  

So, what’s not to love about Mentoring?  If you are interested in helping change the trajectory of a young person’s life and want more information about donating your time, skills or dollars to our at-risk Youth Mentoring Programs here at Easter Seals Greater Houston visit our website at www.EasterSealsHouston.org or reach out to us at 713-838-9050.

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Transition and Employment in the Pandemic

2020 has been anything but usual for the adolescents and adults Easter Seals Greater Houston serves and it has certainly been different for our staff. We have learned to provide services remotely and to help both job seekers and employers adapt to the changing circumstances in which people work and supervise the people who work in their companies.

In March, COVID-19 halted in-person services for high school students in our summer program which, after a two month hiatus, returned as remote services. Our staff, Robert Aranda, Ron Taylor, and Jacquie Privitera, had to figure out how to make lessons interesting and engaging for the students while meeting the requirements of the Texas Workforce Commission, the sponsors of the program. Our students and staff designed a commercial for a network consulting firm and then presented that commercial to a panel of judges from local corporations. All of this was done remotely, including a job performed, for pay, by one of our students for the networking company, Sepulveda Technology Consultants.

Job seekers, and the companies that employ them, have also had to adapt to the challenges of COVID-19. Early in the pandemic, a group of young men with autism, who were completing internships in the IT Department for Chevron, had to adjust to working from home. Despite the stereotype of persons with autism preferring solitude, these men had a difficult time adjusting to not being with their supervisors and coworkers. Their Employment Specialist, Robert Aranda, had to switch from providing face to face services to making contact only by telephone. After many sessions between Robert and the employees and supervisors, all four of the interns were offered permanent positions at Chevron. They still hold their positions and are successfully working remotely today.

For some workers, going to work in an office or warehouse is not possible because of medical issues or mental illness. Ron Taylor, one of our Employment Specialists, worked remotely for several months with a person with severe back pain, searching for the right opportunity. They found a position with Walgreens that let her work from home. Ron worked with our partners at Texas Workforce Solutions to procure a chair and desk that would support her back and let her work. As her personal computer was not suitable for her job, Ron arranged for a donated computer to be made available until she can purchase her own laptop. She is now working from home, processing orders for Walgreens and is on her way to having the funds to purchase her own computer.

Robert Williams, Easter Seals Greater Houston,
Program Director – Employment/Transition Services

Easter Seals Greater Houston provides Transition Services for youth ages 16-27 with autism and mental health conditions. Services include transition evaluation and planning, social skills training, family and community resources and goals which reflect the youth’s realizable aspirations in areas of education or work, peer supports, job placement, job coaching and supported employment. Learn more.

High School/High Tech is a community-based partnership of parents, educators, rehabilitation professionals and business representatives working together to encourage students with disabilities to explore the fields of science, engineering and technology. High School/High Tech also offers a mentoring program called RAMP – Ready to Achieve Mentor Program. Learn more.

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The Caroline School is looking for a Teacher!

If 2013-pj-dayyou are seeking a job that gives you the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children and their families and be an important part of a team of caring professionals, look no further than The Caroline School! Join Easter Seals Greater Houston in our mission to provide services that meet the physical, cognitive and social needs of children with development delays and their families.

We would love to work with someone who is:

  • Experienced in the field (preferably of Education, however other fields will be considered based on particular involvement with children/students)
  • Certified to teach (SpEd specialization recommended, but not required)
  • Passionate about their work
  • Able to be part of a team
  • A creative and flexible thinker regarding educational approaches
  • Available as soon as possible

We are an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission company and offer:image5

  • A super supportive team and working environment
  • On-going training
  • Benefits
  • Optional full or partial Summers
  • An HISD calendar year
  • 5 days of additional Paid days off

If you have the qualities listed above, please send your resume and quick blurb about yourself to the Educational Director of The Caroline School, Tabitha Hernandez, at THernandez@eastersealshouston.org

Tabitha Hernandez, The Caroline School, Easter Seals Greater Houston

 

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