I have held an interest in psychology, helping people, and understanding why people do what they do for a long time. Prior to beginning my work in the Human Services Field, I worked in retail for 26 years. I reached a point where the schedule did not fit my life with a young daughter. So, I went back to college in 2007 and received my degree in psychology. While working on my degree, I also began working with Transitional Services Association (now Rise) as a residential counselor for at-risk teens. I worked there for two years, but I knew I was still looking for the right fit.
I drove past AIM Services every day on my way to work. I finally came in for an interview and met Josh Phelps (Senior Executive Director) who introduced me to the previous Director of Employment Supports Services, Katie Page. I was initially hired to support adults living in their own apartments. I assisted them as they learned important skills to live independently. Five months later, I was offered a position as a Job Coach and, together with Katie Page, we began to support those living in the apartments on their paths to achieve gainful employment. After a few years, I became the Coordinator of Employment Supports Services. Today, I am the Program Director of Employment Supports Services under the OPWDD. In these 8 years, we have grown from supporting the first three people in the Employment Supports Services, to now supporting over 140 people throughout all programs in the organization.
Being a part of the growth of the Employment Supports Services has been an incredible experience. Employment First Initiatives and partnerships with the OPWDD and NYS Alliance for Inclusion and Innovation positively shape the employment skills and opportunities offered to every person in this program. Even more, the relationships formed with other non-profit organizations were, and continue to be, integral to the success of this program. Collaboration with organizations such as Rebuilding Together Saratoga, EOC, Double H Ranch, Slate Valley, and the Open Door Mission, give people supported by AIM the opportunity to gain important work skills in the community, while also assisting the mission of the organization. Going out into the community and helping businesses see the value of working with people of diverse abilities, is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. The passion in my job comes from working directly with those we serve. I also strive to help community members understand that the life of services someone may need to accomplish their employment goals can stretch from 3-7 years. Each person’s employment goal looks different, and the achievement of those goals are dependent upon the presence of natural supports in people’s lives, consistent staffing, the discovery of fitting career paths, and many other factors unique to each person. Building unique supports around each person is a key to the success of this program.
I have a very fulfilling job at AIM. I am so passionate about this work. All around me, people hold the value of helping. I want the people we support to understand how important they are to their community through the work, volunteer or paid, that they contribute. The goal of my job is to assist people in seeing that everything they accomplish leads to their goal of independence and gainful employment. I want the community to see the value of their contributions. I look forward to growing as a program director and continuing to support people, educate the community, and grow the number of businesses with whom we work. I enjoy participating in each person’s journey from not knowing what they want to do for work, to no longer needing support due to the skills they have gained and the level of independence they have achieved.