“I love to help people, and my love language is giving”
A Day in the Life: LaCretia
I honestly had no idea what I was getting into when I came to AIM. I came from working in the Office of Mental Health (OMH). I found AIM through a job search. I studied the website and was inspired when I saw a video of a person being supported as he pursued his dream of participating in taekwondo. I was seeking an employer that was all about the people, and I found that at AIM.
I joined the organization as an Employment Support Professional. I immediately saw how you can support people and watch them become productive parts of their community, without judgement and labeling. Before coming to AIM, I saw people living their lives based on what other people told them to do. At AIM, it is clear that people are living their lives based on what they want. I immediately connected with AIM’s mission and the term “person-centered”. Until coming here, I had never heard that before. I find this person-first language so inspiring. AIM truly honors their engagement with the people it supports.
The energy of my fellow staff members is incredible. Supervisors care about the well-being of the staff and how they can support them. They do this so you can best support the people you serve. Here, personal support equals employment development. I could not ask for a better team. The Employment Services Department feels like family. Together, we have a shared goal of helping people become the most successful and competitively paid workers as possible.
When I first started with AIM, I began supporting people in Community Prevoc. There, we help people grow their skills and help them with their personal choices and work preferences. These very options for the people I support, helped me discover my own interests in the Employment Services Program. Here, I discovered my love of teaching work readiness. One of the hats I wear as an Employment Support Professional, is teaching people coming out of high school, or adults who have never worked before. We help people learn how to enter the workforce and succeed. People learn realistic expectations, manners, professionalism, appearance, etc. I also teach a class called Work Readiness II. Once a week, I meet online or in-person, with those I support and discuss the life skills to obtain and maintain employment. This class involves everything that goes into preparing for and arriving to work. We also discuss natural consequences and a realistic understanding of the workforce, regardless of one’s abilities. We talk about soft skills, communication, and self-advocacy. I tell people that “We crawl before we walk”. We make sure we have the necessary skills in order to successfully go after larger goals. We have a lot of hard conversations; tough moments of understanding and areas of opportunity. I am always helping people see how they can improve.
When a person is ready, we incorporate into their support plan a third phase of Work Readiness. This is an unpaid work experience to put into action the skills learned in classes. It is an incredible opportunity for people to be a part of their community and discover if a chosen field of work is the right fit. Many of the people I support have succeeded and been offered independent, gainful, employment. During this time of exploration, I also help people find their voices. They learn, not only how, but that it is OK, to communicate their needs and goals, in order to discover what they want. People learn how to communicate when they are uncomfortable, how to handle that discomfort, and not to just walk away. They come to understand it is ok to not want something; to change direction and try something new. I often see relief in people when they realize they don’t have to do what other people expect. Due to all of this skill learning and the in-person experience, people’s families often remark that they are seeing new sides of their loved ones.
Another hat I wear at AIM, is that of a Job Coach. This role is assisting people with employment who are in need of some help, some fine tuning, maybe they have become a little complacent. I help people stay on track. I ask them what they need from me and how I can support them to maintain what they are doing. It is wonderful to watch people experience their independence, and for them to sometimes tell me that they don’t need my support at their place of work. I stick by people’s sides, no matter how long it takes, until they don’t need me. And, even then, I’ll check in on them. The level of trust people have in me, makes me cry. They know that I will be there when they call. Whatever their challenge, I want to get to the bottom of it. I treat the people I support with the same respect I show my own family. I want to be the loudest voice in the back of the room supporting them and urging them on. I always say “Let’s do what we do in the spirit of excellence”. Your 100% is all you can bring. Life is life; no one is perfect, but if you arrive with the best attitude, then you did the best you possibly can. When people understand they have done their best, I help them find a work-life balance. When they have done their best, its ok to just go home and be off and be you, separate from work.
I often think of an individual I support. When we began working together, he was very down about his ability to work. He felt like a big let down to his family and to himself. Today, when I see him, after all of the tools and skills we discussed, he is one of the most successful workers in his company. His success has come from finding his voice. When we spoke candidly of his barriers to employment, and he was honest about his difficulties, he started to flourish. In discussing his struggles, we also took time to acknowledge all of his positives. In doing so, he was able to let go of his past failures. He was able to discover that his happiness and success at work comes from pleasing himself; it was not about pleasing others or meeting other’s expectations of him. When he understood that it was ok to put his goals first, he found success. Now when I visit him at work, he is so happy. His supervisors are blown away by him, and he has made new friends.
I love my position as an Employment Support Professional. What better way to go out into the world and contribute to society! I love and agree with the belief that everyone is employable. We help people to see their skills and to apply them to an obtainable goal. Together, we explore all options for goals to become a possibility. I love to help people, and my love language is giving. Seeing someone smile is my joy. I really find that AIM’s love language is giving. I needed to be somewhere where people can be people. That is why I AM AIM!