By Ashley Thompson
Do you remember your first job? You earned your first paycheck and you were able to spend YOUR money for the first time. How did that make you feel?
Fast-forward to today. When we meet people for the first time, they often ask “What do you do?” In other words: “What is your job?”
A job is truly so much more than clocking in, performing work and clocking out each day. To many of us, our job often plays a central role in how we see ourselves. A good job gives us a sense of pride and accomplishment — a purpose. It helps us form new relationships, pushes us outside our comfort zone, teaches us how to overcome obstacles and helps us gain self-esteem.
Supported employment is a brand new program at LFSVA that helps individuals with disabilities find and retain employment. We help individuals explore their personal talents and abilities and find a job where their talents can shine. Not only are we supporting people with finding, learning and keeping jobs, but also supporting people with enhancing pride, identity, a sense of accomplishment, and self-esteem. We help them live the life they’ve imagined.
How can you help build this program? We need local businesses to provide opportunities for jobs to individuals receiving services. Spread the word. Contact me if you are or know of a business that is interested in providing job opportunities. We will provide coaching until individuals successfully perform the job and will gradually step back once individuals feel confident and supported. We also keep in touch with employers to make sure that the relationship is a success.
LFSVA’s Supported Employment program is just beginning. I am optimistic that it will grow into one of the best, most individualized and person-centered Supported Employment programs in the area. The program will grow, but more importantly, we will have the privilege of helping the recipients of the program grow and build the life they envision.
More About Ashley:
Ashley Thompson has worked in the human services field for 10 years and only feels satisfied when she can perform a job where she is making a difference in the lives of others. Ashley found that building confidence and self-esteem in others while watching them make progress toward goals has been one of the most rewarding aspects of working in this field, which was why she was drawn to working for LFSVA’s supported employment program.
Ashley enjoys music, hiking, singing karaoke (joyfully but poorly, preferably with groups), dancing, playing pinball and spending time with her cat, Jane, and her guinea pig, James Brown. Ashley feels that two of the most powerful forms of medicine are laughter and music.
Photo caption 1: Ashley, along with Starkey Station students Harley and Jonny, volunteer at the Franklin County Humane Society.
Photo caption 2: Ashley and Jonny do landscaping with Roanoke City Parks and Recreation.