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Rehabilitation Council of Texas 2015 Annual Report

Success Stories

Tina Williams

 

A Success Story

Meant to Stand Out: Tina Williams

 

Tina Williams, 48, is a native of Houston, which she describes as the greatest place on Earth. Tina, who has a winning personality and an amazing sense of humor, was born with rickets, a condition caused by a long-term lack of vitamin D, calcium or phosphate. Rickets caused Tina's bones to become very fragile and soft and resulted in scoliosis, or a curved spine. At 26, Tina was also diagnosed with transverse myelitis, a condition that affects her spinal cord and causes muscle weakness and paralysis in her legs. This condition also causes phantom sensations, the feeling that something is touching or crawling on the skin when it is not.

Tina relies on a wheelchair to get around and has to be very careful not to break or fracture her fragile bones, which she describes as being "paper thin." She experiences frequent muscle spasms, and her curved spine causes her to lean to the side or back, making it uncomfortable for her to stay in one position for very long.

Tina was referred to the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) in the early 1990s by a school counselor at San Jacinto College when she registered for classes. Tina sought assistance from DARS and received financial assistance with purchasing college supplies, transportation and accommodations to help her be successful. In addition, Tina was provided with assistive technologies, including the power wheelchair she still uses today.

Thanks to DARS services, Tina successfully completed her professional training in cosmetology. "The cosmetology classes prepared me for my future," she said. "I learned how to fix hair and apply makeup." These skills helped her obtain employment as a cosmetologist and helped her earn the title of Miss Wheelchair Texas 2012.

Due to stiffness and pain in her hands, Tina now works as a part-time patient care coordinator for a medical supply company. She enjoys this work because it gives her an opportunity to serve as a role model to motivate others who have challenges to overcome.

Although Tina remains employed as a patient care coordinator and is thankful for her job helping people, her passion is to explore a career as a travel agent and to continue working with people with disabilities as a self-enrichment instructor so she can share with them the support, confidence and self-advocacy skills she received from DARS. Tina has recently returned to DARS for career exploration assistance and DARS is providing continuing education and counseling to help her pursue her goals of becoming a travel agent and traveling the world.

Today, Tina feels that there are no limits to what she can achieve and knows that she was meant to stand out and be exceptional — not just fit in. She said, "DARS has changed my life. They helped me accomplish my dreams."

 

Joey Elizondo

 

A Success Story

Resolved to Reach His Goals: Joey Elizondo

 

Joey Elizondo, 22, is an independent and successful young man with a mild intellectual disability who also experiences depression. In 2010, Joey was a quiet and shy La Joya High School junior whose school counselors believed in him and wanted him to achieve his goal of attending college to study mechanics. They referred him to Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) with a single request: "If you help one student from our high school, it needs to be Joey."

DARS Transition Counselor Leigh Ann Godinez knew Joey would do better in college with a more extensive support system, so she referred him to Project HIRE (Helping Individuals Reach Employment) in Hidalgo County, where he could build the work skills and interpersonal skills needed for employment.

Project HIRE helps students between the ages 18-25 who have intellectual and developmental disabilities complete an academic certificate-level degree at South Texas College and find employment. The program is a $1.25 million five-year grant awarded to DARS by the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities.

In summer 2012, Joey was selected to participate in Project HIRE. Over the next three years, he participated in a six-week college readiness program and then attended mechanics classes at South Texas College with the support of an educational coach from the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley. This support was provided both in and outside of the classroom.

Joey's success in his courses was also helped by his use of technology. He used specialized assistive technology to have his textbooks read aloud to him. He also used the online communications application Skype to have evening tutoring sessions on his computer with his brother-in-law, who works as a mechanic in Virginia.

Joey also had ongoing support from Project HIRE staff through twice yearly person-centered planning meetings and monthly team support meetings to ensure that he met his academic and vocational goals. With assistance from Project HIRE, Joey participated in business mentoring with several employers to help build job skills before his graduation. DARS also provided counseling and guidance, vocational adjustment training, social skills training and other services to prepare him for success on the job.

Joey never wavered in his resolution to reach his training and employment goals, even when both his sister and father endured serious medical problems. Because of his determination and his eagerness to learn from the services he received from Project HIRE and DARS, Joey graduated from South Texas College in December 2014 and found employment as a mechanic.

In April 2015, Joey was honored as a successful Project HIRE graduate during the 2015 Project HIRE Grant Year Four Kick-off Celebration. It was an emotional moment for all who were involved in Joey's success and who helped him become the independent and successfully employed young man he is today. A member of Joey's family said, "We will be forever grateful to DARS and Project HIRE for helping Joey to become the successful person he is today."

We will be forever grateful to DARS and Project HIRE for helping Joey to become the successful person he is today.