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.

Community involvement: Greenville

David Turnipseed, Greenville Area Supervisor, and Jim Carino, North American Rescue (NAR) Vice President of Operations, were guest speakers at the Greenville CAN / Greenville Society for Human Resource Management Disability Lunch & Learn Series at the Greenville Technical Center for Manufacturing Innovation on January 24.

Starbucks Inclusion Academy

Taylor Duckworth, Orenthal Keith and Mark Lowell are the first three graduations of the Starbucks Inclusion Academy. The three interns spent six weeks at Starbuck’s Sandy Run Roasting Plant in Gaston learning a variety of skills that are transferable across job settings.

“I've worked hard for this,” says Orenthal. “I learned I'm capable, and can do a lot more than I knew. It feels really good.”

“This experience provided the interns with a unique opportunity to learn valuable skills in a job setting, but without the pressure involved in a traditional hire,” says Jacob Chorey, VR Program Planning and Evaluation Coordinator. Chorey was also one of the job coaches for the interns.

The Inclusion Academy is a partnership between Starbucks, VR and The Arc of the Midlands. VR provided a job coach and classroom instructors, The Arc of the Midlands also provided a job coach, and Starbucks provided hard hats, ear plugs, hair and beard nets, safety vests and goggles, and gloves for the interns.

Client Achievement award recognition

Brian Denny of Columbia received statewide recognition recently for his determination and exceptional accomplishments. 

Denny received VR’s Client Achievement award at the SC Vocational Rehabilitation Association (SCVRA) annual meeting on October 28, 2016.

Denny sustained a high level spinal cord injury (C3-C4) while on the job at a building supply company. After the accident he became discouraged trying to find employment, but he knew if someone would give him a chance he had a lot to offer.

After applying for multiple jobs Denny was referred to VR by the Spinal Cord Association. With the support of agency partners, VR staff was able to offer Brian encouragement and services that would eventually lead to successful employment.