Thursday, August 28, 2008

Jeffrey Nurick has a job!

Last week, I downloaded my email and watched as the headers dropped one by one into queue. One message in particular caught my eye–

“Jeffrey Nurick has a job!”

I skipped all of my other unopened mail and went quickly to read the communication from Jeffrey Nurick. The news of Jeffrey’s hire was a welcome end to a long, frustrating job search journey for this colleague and friend of mine. With Jeffrey’s permission, I wanted to share his email in his own words. Here it is...

Dear Family, Friends, and Colleagues,

No, your eyes did not deceive you. After much networking, interviews, letter writing campaigns, etcetera, I have finally found a part-time job. The job is working at the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis campus) 14 hours per week.
I will be working for the Institute on Community Integration. If you click on this link, you will get an overview of what they do. http://ici.umn.edu/
More specifically, I will be working on a program within the Institute on Community Integration. The program, the College of Direct Support, is a training program designed for Direct Service Professionals (DSP's). DSP'S are similar to Personal Care Attendants (PCA'S). The difference between the two is that the DSP gets more involved in the client's lives. Some examples might be: being in charge of a client's finances and assisting in making everyday decisions with clients; the PCA's simply follow directions given by the client. Click on this link to get an overview of the College of Direct Support. http://info.collegeofdirectsupport.com/
My job will be to write a course for DSP's. I think the course will be on physical disabilities (they are not sure yet). If this is the case, it will be right up my ally!!! This is a new job, which they created for me. Other people multi-task and I will just be writing.
Why would somebody create a job just for me? I networked with a variety of the people that work there, and they fell in love with me!!! I was at a dinner meeting, when somebody pulled up a chair next to me and the conversation went something like this: "Jeffrey, I have reviewed your resume and see you here month after month. How would you like to work for us? I do not know what you would do, but let's schedule a meeting with the team, and we could brainstorm." I said "thank you, but I do not need another, volunteer job." The man replied, "Jeffrey, you are too talented not to get paid." I looked around the room, thinking he had to be talking to somebody else. I was wrong. The rest is history, as they say!!!
Finally, I want to thank everybody, and I do mean everybody, who has supported me over the years. I could not have done it alone!!!!!
Jeffrey

I met Jeffrey a couple of years ago when he enrolled in my organization to do national service as a member of our AmeriCorps team. Jeffrey, along with a couple of his colleagues, helped to design a customized employment service for adults with disabilities who are lacking access to services due to issues of ineligibility or access to funding. Jeffrey spent two years helping to shape the concept of the “AmeriCorps I-Team,” a completely voluntary program offering job placement and customized employment assistance for unemployed and underemployed Minnesotans with disabilities and other barriers to employment. The program was a huge success opening doors to opportunity for many without access to workforce services. And in 2006, Jeffrey fulfilled a two year national service commitment. Now, it was his time to move on and find a job in the workforce.

A little more background might be helpful here. Jeffrey was born with cerebral palsy, a condition that affects some of his physical capacities and speech. He uses a motorized wheelchair and is supported by a personal care attendant (PCA) with some skills of independent living. Jeffrey is a very bright individual who completed college with excellent grades and did an internship at the White House in Washington D.C. during the Clinton Administration. He joined the Corps ready to contribute his talents to public service.

Jeffrey has the education, experience, drive and motivation to perform a meaningful job. During his job search, he continued volunteering and networking. He volunteers regularly at the Courage Center and United Cerebral Palsy. He also is on the Minnesota Governor’s Board on Disability Issues, Minnesota APSE’s Board of Directors, the University of Minnesota's Institute on Community Integration’s (ICI) Advisory Board, and Transportation Council at CCD. He has addressed the Minnesota State Legislature on Disability, has met many elected officials, made new connections and regularly attends open forums and meetings. He developed a vast network, but still had been rejected by the private sector, not-for-profits, and government agencies. We know what he can accomplish and what his capabilities are, but employment recruiters could not seem to get past his wheelchair and speech challenges.

Sure, we anticipated Jeffrey would experience some challenges finding a competitive job after leaving the Corps. None of us, however, expected his job search to go on for two years!

During this long arduous job search, he endured the humiliation of low expectations, discrimination, and a general lack of confidence in his abilities to do a competitive job. He struggled finding an open door. Through all of this, Jeffrey maintained a positive, can do attitude and never lost sight of his goal. However, no one seemed willing to give Jeffrey a chance to show what he can do. No one, that is, until this past week.

You see, one of the benefits of serving in our AmeriCorps program was Jeffrey’s firsthand exposure to core principles of customizing employment. And Jeffrey’s new job holds many elements of these proven, cutting edge techniques.

For example, Jeffrey found his job through individual networking. As a member of the Institute on Community Integration (ICI’s) Advisory Council, he met a representative at ICI. This contact happens to work closely in the area of curriculum development at the College of Direct Supports. This contact also proved to be invaluable in creating his job opportunity and giving Jeffrey the chance he needed to prove himself in the workforce.

Next, Jeffrey’s job tasks were negotiated with his employer, the University of Minnesota. He will be doing curriculum writing for a new program being prepared for Direct Service Professionals (DSPs) through the College of Direct Supports. His position is highly customized around a fund of content knowledge, interests, and talents Jeffrey already has. In sum, Jeffrey’s job is well matched to his abilities and he is definitely qualified to fulfill the requirements customized around his work skills and capacities.

The job also meets a critical need of his employer. Jeffrey has used PCAs for a large part of his life. Therefore, he understands firsthand the critical skill sets and competencies needed to achieve success in this career field. He will do research and work with others to organize a comprehensive educational curriculum for aspiring DSPs. The University of Minnesota has hired a quality employee with ample firsthand experience and content knowledge to guide the development of this new program.

Jeffrey will only be working 14 hours a week. However, with a “foot in the door,” he will have ample opportunity to demonstrate his value to U of M colleagues and perhaps add more tasks to his position over time. If this is not possible, he will be building excellent job references to move forward with his career.

In addition to his job tasks, Jeffrey has planned and negotiated the supports he will need to achieve employment success. Some of these supports include the personal transportation he needs to get back and forth from the job. It also includes intrinsic supports such as effective communication strategies so Jeffrey is able to connect with his supervisor and colleagues at the U of M.

Jeffrey Nurick’s long journey to obtaining a competitive job has finally ended. And I am proud of him for hanging in there, putting the principles of customization into play, and creating a job for himself. Well done my friend!!

There is no question about it--customized employment is changing what it means to be “qualified” in the workforce one person at a time.

3 Comments:

Blogger Alyssa K said...

I am proud to be the first to comment! But not as proud as I am to be able to say that I have had the distinct pleasure of getting to know Jeffrey Nurick. He hung in there (with the job search) when most would have given up. I know that this job is just the beginning of what he has to offer the world...so watch out! ICI is very lucky.

10:22 AM  
Anonymous Cara Lavender said...

Jeffrey that's fantastic! Congrats on the new job and I hope it's a great experience for you!

1:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had the pleasure to serve as Jeffrey Nurick's Personal Care Attendant during his college days. (And I am pretty sure he nearly earned straight A's).

I also journeyed with him from New York to Washington D.C. to assist him during his internship. It may be of note that he also worked with the Office for Disability Rights in Greater Washington D.C. by way of the Washington Center Program.

I remember vividy, traveling with my feet on my skateboard and my hands on the back of Jeff's motorized Wheelchair. We went from curb to curb- or restaurant entrance to storefront, doing informal or grassroots research on the accessibility of the city.

During the time that I stayed with Jeffrey down in D.C. I had a very special sense of life. Most of my waking moments (and truthfully often while half-asleep at night) I attended to him and his needs. Hoping to be the best instrument for his freedom from restrictions.

I recall learning a great deal from his whimsy, philosophical and downright hermeneutic commentaries.

Jeff and I are still in touch, albeit less often than either of us likely wish. But I will never forget his passion and comittment to becoming a fuller and deeper thinker, activitst and advocate for others.

Time and distance, irrespective, Jeffrey will always be my brother.

3:14 PM  

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