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
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.
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 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
The main outreach publication about VR services, Let’s Go to Work, recently received a Notable State Document Award for 2016 from the SC State Library (SCSL).
“I feel that this program is a great for anyone wanting to return to work. The staff are excellent and professionals. They are knowledgeable and patient with the clients. This program is awesome and has an ‘A’ rating! I enjoyed my time here at Vocational Rehabilitation!”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
The Marlboro Area Office and SC Works of Bennettsville sponsored a local Manufacturing Talent Fair on January 24. Twelve manufacturing representatives from both Carolinas received applications from, and interviewed, manufacturing job seekers from the region.
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.
It always seems impossible until it's done.
—Nelson Mandela, President of South Africa
...that although the national unemployment rate for people with disabilities (10.7%) is more than twice the rate of people without disabilities, there are some positive signs?
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.