A Day in the Life: Audrey
I always wanted to work with people directly. Throughout high school, I worked with children in my mom’s in-home daycare. I love working with kids. After high school, I wanted to expand upon my experiences, so I started working at a psychiatric hospital with people of all ages. This was the first time that I had really been exposed to people with dual diagnoses, and also saw staff struggling to learn how to best support people with these unique needs. This further sparked my interest of learning to care for people with diverse needs. Then, in college, I had an internship at the VA hospital in Albany, exposing me to even more ways of supporting people.
I knew of AIM because my mom was once employed as a Care Manager. When I saw an opening at the organization, I was eager for a new opportunity to learn about supporting people of diverse abilities. I started as a DSP for Self-Direction, supporting my best friend’s brother for six months. Then, a coordinator position opened in Com Hab & Respite. I went to school for recreational therapy, so I felt the position was a perfect fit. I supported in that role for four years. At AIM, I have been able to develop a much deeper connection with people than in any other position I have held. There can always be ups and downs, but no matter what my role has been, our Executive Director has taken the time (more times than I can ever count) to make sure I am ok and have what I need to best serve the people we support. He is always checking in, and I see him doing it for everyone he can.
I went to SUNY Cortland where my professors were very focused on person-centeredness. From the moment I walked through the doors, it was nice to see it was also important to AIM. Everyone truly cares and wants the best for people. You don’t always feel that in the world, or in other places of work. This has stuck with me; I am going on five years here and I continue to see a person-centered focus every single day. For example, in working with the fundraising team, we have been able to find ways to fund experiences and opportunities for people who may not be able to so on their own. Through this shared focus on people experiencing their goals and dreams, we have helped people go on trips and take vacations, or simply have the admission to go to a movie, or enjoy an art class. There are countless stories of people realizing a dream. Most recently, we were able to help someone realize their lifelong dream of going to a wrestling match. He had never booked a hotel before, or arranged a trip for himself, and we were able to help him make it happen.
Being part of the growth of the Com Hab & Respite Program is amazing. Since my background is in recreational therapy, growing these programs has been a particular focus of mine. We have programs for music, art, sports, weekend recreation, and are continuing to grow what we offer. We want to offer more opportunities for day trips, and offer wellness programs and experiences for all ages. Right now, we have two summer programs, and are hoping to expand to support even more people. The impact of these programs upon the people served is deep. When I began, I started supporting a girl who has become an important part of my life, and I hers. She struggles with trust, so having a trustworthy person to contact, and having these programs available to her with familiar faces, is impactful. The consistent and intentional support she receives helps her grow and make friends, allows her to find more natural supports, and helps her to discover new hobbies and interests. By providing these effective programs, family members also receive the relief and support they need. Often, people are on a lengthy wait list for one-on-one support due to limited staffing, and these programs are an answer to immediate and meaningful support for people and their families.
I look to the future and I see us growing and supporting more people throughout the program. We are constantly thinking about how we can grow in the best way possible. Right now, we are focusing on increasing the number of people supported in the after school program. We provide the transportation needed for school districts who can’t get students to our site in Malta. We go above and beyond to remove any barriers to children get the support they need. There is a strong need for meaningful and effective after school programs for children with disabilities. Currently, we are focused on community education, allowing us to share details about the program, as there are many families that don’t know about the program, or how to enroll. Our team will also focus on continued community outreach and relationship building with local businesses, so there is always an abundance of places to visit, and engaging community-based opportunities for those served.
At the end of 2021, I became Program Director of Respite Services. It means so much to be given this opportunity. I am very grateful for the opportunities I have been given in my time here Seeing so much growth in myself, and people seeing the potential in me, is amazing. I have a great time with my coworkers. We are excited for 2022 and what we can do for the people we serve. I also have a personal goal to get my team to where they want to be. I am eager to get them comfortable in their roles and help them achieve their goals. I will always be there to help support wherever I am needed, and am excited for the future of this program.