Graduates share knowledge

Justin Smith, Melanie Miller and Terry Manus, graduates of the first Heavy Equipment Operator (HEO) class at the Bryant Center, and who now work for Sloan Construction, recently spoke to the current HEO class. They shared their experiences and gave examples of how they have applied what they learned in class to their new jobs with Sloan.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Are you ready for National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM)?

Each October, NDEAM celebrates the contributions of workers with disabilities and educates about the value of a workforce inclusive of their skills and talents. Reflecting the important role that different perspectives play in workforce success, this year's NDEAM theme is “Inclusion Drives Innovation.”

STEPS to success

Lucien “Luke” McCurry prepares to throw the first pitch at a recent Lexington Blowfish game. Prior to the game, Luke and nine other young adults attending the Summer Transition Evaluation Program for Students (STEPS) at VR’s West Columbia Evaluation Center toured the Lexington County Baseball Stadium and met with various employees. They learned about jobs at the stadium, what’s involved in hosting a minor league baseball team, and various ways the stadium serves the community

First Project SEARCH graduates in Anderson

Aron Gilliam, Elizabeth Gonzalez, La-Keisha Logan, Trenton Pate and Dillon Worley were recognized for being the first class of Project SEARCH graduates from AnMed Health during a ceremony on June 11 at Westside High School in Anderson.

Project SEARCH is an international school-to-work program that places high school students with disabilities into a work environment, with the ultimate goal of competitive employment. It combines classroom instruction, career exploration, and hands-on training.

Community involvement - Greenville

VR’s Greenville Area Office Business Partnership Network luncheon was attended by the largest group of business and community leaders to date.

Bernard Jones, Business Development Specialist, presented examples of VR partnerships with more than 20 businesses in the Greenville area and how VR matches employer needs with qualified candidates. He emphasized the diversity of positions in which VR clients are employed, including sales, customer service, administrative, healthcare, manufacturing, warehouse and distribution, construction, truck driving, and many more.

Worksman Cycles rolls into Horry County

Worksman Cycles recently celebrated their grand opening in Conway. The company, which manufactures bicycles and tricycles for industrial, commercial and recreational use, opened a factory in South Carolina because it had outgrown its New York production facility.

When Worksman received their first wheel building machine in 2016, VR’s Conway Area Office was invited to watch as the company manufactured their first wheel in South Carolina. Shortly thereafter, a wheel building tryout was scheduled for VR clients. That tryout led to three clients participating in on-the-job trainings, which resulted in the clients becoming full time employees for Worksman Cycles.

Governor’s Committee Winners

The SC Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities works with mayors’ committees and state and local agencies to bring greater public awareness to the many talents and qualifications of workers with disabilities and their positive impact on the workforce and our state’s economy.

Each year a number of South Carolina businesses are recognized for their exemplary practices in hiring people with disabilities and actively promoting disability awareness and workforce opportunities in the business community.

Keep on rolling – VR helps bus drivers stay on the job

Cecelia Maples was having trouble “walking the bus.”

“Walking the bus” refers to making a safety check of a school bus that includes checking all lights, ensuring all equipment is functioning properly, and examining the interior and exterior of the vehicle for damage. Drivers perform this check at least four times a day.

Cecelia has been a school bus driver for the Kershaw County School District for 14 years and loves her job. But she had been having difficulty walking for almost two years, and it was getting worse. Now it was affecting her job.

“I could barely walk and when I did, it was just agonizing pain,” she says. “If I can‘t walk my bus and I can‘t sit down and drive the bus, then I‘m going to be out of a job.”

Palmetto PRIDE

More than 200 Disability Determination Services (DDS) employees from around the state converged on Columbia for the annual DDS PRIDE Awards Ceremony on March 30 to celebrate outstanding staff achievements throughout the state.

PRIDE (People Responsibly Influencing Decisional Excellence), which began in the Social Security Administration Atlanta Regional Office in 1985, recognizes the positive contributions made by DDS employees through a regional award and recognition program.

Surviving and thriving

One by one, the participants of VR's four-week brain injury comprehensive evaluation hold up a small painting they have just completed and describe what it means to them. The painting is a chance for them to express something about their life with brain injury, what they have learned while at VR, and to reflect on their future.

Tony Ramey is a big Clemson fan, as you might guess from looking at his canvas. It is decorated in bold purple and orange lines, with four heart shapes arranged diagonally, almost like paws.

“The purple is like a purple heart,” he tells the group. “It's about bravery and what we have overcome.” Tony has a severe speech impediment, but no one has trouble understanding him. “The orange is the eye of the tiger. You have to have strength and determination.”

“That’s not what any of us expected him to say,” says Janet Spires, Nurse Supervisor. The art project is the final group activity for these clients. Together, they came up with a word which is sketched across the canvas boards. When the paintings are properly arranged, the word will be visible.

Employers show 'heart' for disabled workers

Local businesses are being honored for employing people with disabilities, a practice that Orangeburg County Disabilities and Special Needs Board officials say is much appreciated.

The Greater Orangeburg Area Mayors’ Committee on Employment for People with Disabilities held its annual awards breakfast on March 22 at Cornerstone Church. The Orangeburg Rotary Morning Club hosted the ninth annual event.

Among those honored at the breakfast were Hi Cotton Greenhouses, Small Employer of the Year; Orangeburg County, Medium Employer of the Year, and Husqvarna, Large Employer of the Year.

Eugene Peele Jr., a North Middle/High School senior, was named Student of the Year.

Voc Rehab tour impresses local pastors

Seneca Mayor Dan Alexander said he used to drive by the South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Department on Wells Highway numerous times without knowing the types of services provided.

“I lived here my whole life and had no clue,” Alexander said.

That all changed in 2014 when Alexander joined Voc Rehab as a business development specialist. After learning that the organization’s mission is to prepare and assist eligible South Carolinians with disabilities to achieve and maintain competitive employment, he has maintained a burning desire to get the word out to others.

Welding talent with employers

Jerald Grimes is a welder at Kobelco Construction Machinery in Moore, SC, where he helps to assemble the upper and lower frames of the 20 ton hydraulic excavators the company produces for worldwide distribution.

“I like welding, any kind of welding,” he says, excitedly. “I’ve been doing this for 31 years and love it.”

The components that Jerald welds fit together are big and require from three to six passes to weld.

“He’s one of my best welders,” says Jason Martel, Production Fabrication Supervisor at Kobelco.

The fabrication area where Jerald works currently produces one and a half frame assemblies per day and are ahead of their schedule.

“We ship one thing out of the plant and that’s a fully assembled excavator,” says Eric Holland, Human Resources Manager at Kobelco. Eventually, the company will produce eight different types of excavators ranging in size from 17 to 50 tons. “Right now, we’re producing one every two days. The next production goal is one a day. The capacity with one shift is 1,800 per year. That’s upwards of nine a day, or one an hour.”

Famed SC interpreter visits Whale Branch student praised by Obama

One has been called a “rock star.”

The other was recently praised by someone millions consider one.

On Thursday, certified deaf interpreter Jason Hurdich — who became a sensation around the country for the enthusiastic manner in which he signed for former Gov. Nikki Haley during her televised Hurricane Matthew news conferences — drove from Charleston to Seabrook on Thursday to visit Ambriance Lamar, a senior at Whale Branch Early College High School.

The 18-year-old student, who is not deaf but is unable to vocalize because of a medical condition, got a great deal of media attention after former president Barack Obama wrote her Jan. 9 in response to the letter Lamar had written him three months earlier.

Pilot program at Evaluation Center for Deaf clients

Fourteen Deaf and hard of hearing clients attended a two-week pilot program at VR’s Evaluation Center in West Columbia in January. The clients engaged in team-building exercises, practiced interviewing skills, learned about Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), participated in assessments and vocational evaluations.

“We started them off on the ropes course at Wil Lou Gray because we wanted to see what they were capable of,” says Shonna Magee, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Coordinator. The group quickly bonded as they worked together and encouraged each other while climbing the catwalk, balancing on platforms and zip lining.