Teamwork to Make the Dream Work

NOTE: October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Michelle Novak

By Michelle Novak, Community Liaison for Tradewinds


The relationship between the vocational rehabilitation counselor, employment specialist and the job seeker are important when it comes to finding successful employment. The support and encouragement on the road to a successful employment placement can make a positive impact for everyone involved. In this case, an Employment Specialist shares her perspective on the VR client and her determination to succeed after five years on the employment search.

Michelle Novak, left, helped Destinee Smith in her job search

Michelle Novak, left, helped Destinee Smith in her job search

I can easily say Destinee is at the top of my “favorite client” list! I wanted to share some feedback with all of you because I truly feel we have found the perfect fit for her after a long 5 years of having an open case with VR!

Ever since Destinee, who has mild/moderate cerebral palsy and is deaf, was assigned to work with me, it was important for me to get to know her personally, understand her goals and barriers and ultimately, earn her trust. In speaking with her VR counselor, I knew her case had been open for a long time and I was determined to help. I was really motivated to work with her and find something where she can thrive. Destinee told me she wants an opportunity to show people that she’s smart, valuable, and deserving of an opportunity.

After meeting with management at HG Global, I took Destinee in on two different days so she could try working in different areas. She did amazing and they wanted her on board as an employee. I wish I could have had a camera those first couple days. It’s wonderful to see her utilizing her skills, talent and most importantly, her persistence show her value. She just completed her first week of working at HG Global and has managed to accomplish the following:

  • Learn a data entry software in less than 30 minutes of training and instruction. The supervisor stated the last 3 individuals she attempted to train couldn’t get it down after a few days of training.
  • She taught her coworkers “not judge a book by its cover”. A lot of people are unaware or uneducated about the abilities people with disabilities have. A few people in the area where she works approached me and questioned her ability to do certain tasks. I told them to watch this girl because she is going to teach all of us a few things. And, she absolutely did! Her supervisor, Rose, immediately became her office advocate and treated her no different than anyone else. Rose immediately picked up on Destinee’s independence and does a great job encouraging her and ensuring she is part of the team. She doesn’t even realize that she has changed people’s perception of “disability” which is so amazing to watch!
  • She was quiet her first day but by the third day she walked in confidentially and said good morning to everyone. She and got herself settled at her desk, put her lunch in the break room and told me “go have a seat and work on your laptop, I will let you know if I need anything”.

I’m blown away at her ability to adapt to change so quickly and I don’t think she realizes the positive impact she’s made on so many people in such a short time. I’m excited to see her grow and be successful there. Thank you to everyone for the persistence, flexibility, patience, and overall teamwork. She deserves every minute we have all invested and I am so very proud of her!


This post originally appeared on Indian’s Division of Disability and Rehabilitative Services’ website.

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