When Samantha and her mother, Kathy, began the transition planning process from high school to adult life, they focused on applying to colleges and continuing her involvement in the performing arts. Samantha, a young woman with a mild intellectual disability and Autism, has excelled academically and artistically since she was a child; she is passionate about learning and has been taking hip-hop, modern, jazz, and tap dance routines at her local dance studio for over 12 years. This passion led Samantha's teachers and peers to nominate her for an outstanding achievement award, which she received at The Union League in Center City, Philadelphia. This great achievement means a lot not only to Samantha, but also to her family.
As the date of her high school graduation approached, Samantha applied and was accepted to The Community College of Philadelphia (CCP). Even though she had to take the placement test four times, due to her struggle with comprehension, she never gave up. Samantha shined during her time at CCP, receiving A's and B's in all of her courses. In fact, after receiving straight A's in her last semester, Samantha was recognized by Dr. Samuel Hirsh, Vice President of The Community College of Philadelphia, for her achievements.
After completing her courses at CCP, Samantha will be applying to Eastern University's College Success Program for students with Autism. As Samantha prepares to leave home and attend a four-year college full-time, she's excited about all of the opportunities that the future holds. She's now exploring potential majors and preparing to audition for the Eastern University dance team. While she's nervous about living on her own for the first time, she knows that her family, and Supports Coordinator will always be there for her.
Not many people can say that they've been employed with the same company for nearly ten years. Then again, not many people have the same work ethic or personality as Jodi. Jodi has been a valued employed at The Bakery Nook for nearly 10 years as a part-time kitchen assistant, performing a wide-range of tasks that help the bakery run smoothly.
Jodi began working at The Bakery Nook in 2006 four days a week with the support of a job coach. Her daily tasks include hand washing the industrial baking equipment, assisting bakers with food preparation by putting muffing batter into muffin pan tins, helping fold dessert boxes for pick-up and delivery, and helping keep the kitchen clean. Jodi performs all of these tasks seamlessly thanks to her attention to detail, hardworking nature, and people skills.
When Jodi isn't working, her schedule is jam-packed with activities. She participates in swimming and bowling through the Special Olympics, attends a young adults group every week, participates in Best Buddies through Muhlenberg College, attends The Arc of Lehigh and Northampton Counties' social dances, and is active in her church. In her spare time she enjoys swimming in her pool, reading magazines, attending concerts, and spending time with her family — particularly her two nephews, who she calls the light of her life.
As you can tell, Jodi has never let her disability define who she is. Instead, she has created a life for herself that allows her to build upon her people-skills, work ethic, and various interests. We are extremely proud of Jodi and everything she has accomplished over the last 41 years; with no signs of slowing down, there's no telling what she'll be able to accomplish next.
(Photo: Jodi with Barry, the owner of Bakery Nook)
If you live in Philadelphia and have visited a Home Depot within the last decade, chances are you have met Pamela. Since 1998 Pamela — known by friends as “Pam” — has been employed full-time with the organization as a Store Associate. Pam takes pride in her job and enjoys working within the community; she has established a strong network of coworkers and friends who support her both personally and professionally. As a woman with a mild intellectual disability and cerebral palsy, Pam does not let her disability limit her potential in the workforce. Over the years she has taken on new leadership roles and has firmly established herself as a dedicated, reliable employee. In fact, over the years she has received numerous “Employee of the Month” awards and gifts in recognition of her hard work.
Outside of the workplace, Pam enjoys spending time with her Lifesharer, eating at new restaurants, and visiting local shops. Her Supports Coordinator describes Pam as “a very friendly, humorous, and well-loved woman who loves being on the go.” Adding that, “there's no one more kind than Pam. She gets along with everyone and always sees the best in people, which is one of the reasons why she's been so successful at Home Depot.”
Congratulations, Pam, on over 18 years of employment!
Robert is a sweet and outgoing young man who has successfully been employed with Giant Food Stores since 2010. As a Courtesy Clerk, Robert works three days a week at Giant, diligently maintaining the parking lot to ensure that it is safe and free of carts. He also provides excellent customer service, helping shoppers locate items within the store and carry groceries to their cars. Often times, Robert also assists with light maintenance around the store and overseeing basket collection. Over the last five years, Robert has established himself as a much needed and appreciated team member at Giant. His Supports Coordinator Supervisor, Shanaya Smith, is delighted at the sense of community he has established in the workforce. Stating that, “working at Giant has changed Robert's life. The sense of pride he has from working and the confidence it has instilled in him is amazing.”
Working within the community has not only offered Robert the opportunity to increase his financial independence, but has also provided him with the tools needed to strengthen his social skills and develop friendships with his coworkers and customers. With their encouragement and support, Robert is receiving one-on-one tutoring to continue his education, focusing on strengthening his math and reading skills. Robert hopes that through continuing his education he will be able to take on additional responsibilities at Giant and possibly obtain another part-time job. His commitment to his job and education is truly inspirational and we are very proud of his hard work.
Lifesharing offers individuals with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to live more independently within the community while still benefiting from the loving support of a family unit. When Onyx began receiving Supports Coordination services from Quality Progressions in 2013 it became clear that her living situation was hindering her personal growth. As a 23 year-old woman with a moderate intellectual disability, Onyx needed a strong, caring female role model to support her personal development. When Onyx temporarily entered a domiciliary care facility she met Jackie, who would eventually become her Lifesharing provider.
Since entering Lifesharing, Onyx has completely transformed her life. Prior to living with Jackie, Onyx was very timid, fearful of others, and had limited communication skills. However, once she became a part of a strong family unit her personality blossomed. Onyx is now leading a healthier, more active lifestyle, interviewing for jobs, dating, and is more vocal about her wants and needs. She has strong friendships and close ties to the community, and has a much more positive outlook on life.
Being a part of Lifesharing has not only increased Onyx's quality of life, but also Jackie's. Having lived together for roughly one year, the women have developed a truly symbiotic relationship. Together, they participate in their local community, vacation in Florida, attending family functions, and lead everyday lives.
George is an extremely friendly and hardworking individual who is passionate about crafting and volunteering within his community. He is a shining example of someone living the “It's All About Community!” philosophy, as every activity he is involved with engages others and highlights his capabilities as an employee, entrepreneur and volunteer.
This year, George celebrates his third year working part-time for his local Target, where he assists with general store duties. For George, this is more than just a job — it's a way for him to interact with his neighbors, make friends, and learn about business operations. The later has proved to be very useful, as George launched a handcrafted leather goods business nearly two years ago. With encouragement from his Supports Coordinator, Clara, and Job Coach, George etches images and designs into leather key chains, wallets, cell phone holders, and belts. His leather goods are so popular that he often has to make more products while at studio events and craft fairs to meet demand.
In addition to working part-time and running his own business, George also volunteers two days a week at a farm, helping care for horses. Working on a farm has definitely inspired George's etching, as a majority of his leather pieces depict horses and other county-inspired designs. Eventually, George hopes to sell his leather goods on a large scale but promises to never lose the handmade quality that his customers love.
When Valerie and her team began looking into Lifesharing as a possible residential option she was going through many significant life changes. This includes transferring to a new high school, transition planning, and moving between households. As a young woman with behavioral health issues, Valerie struggled to express herself; Valerie needed a stable home environment that provided her with the support and respect she wanted, along with the consistency and structure she needed to grow into a responsible adult.
In 2011 Valerie began living in a Lifesharing home with Jeanette and her daughter Brya. From the very beginning Valerie connected with Jeanette's family. They understood Valerie's wants and needs, and made every effort to help her control her behaviors and refocus her energy in positive ways. Over the last three years Valerie has reinvented her life; she has lost 80lbs thanks to a healthier diet, takes Customized Community Transportation (CCT) independently, made honor roll for the first time, attended prom, and is graduating from Swenson Arts and Technology high school this spring. After graduation she will be attending a day program while exploring employment opportunities.
Living in a Lifesharing environment has also provided the opportunity for Valerie and her Mother, Kelly, to strengthen their relationship. Valerie continues to spend time with her Mother within the community; they enjoy shopping at the mall and having picnics together. The progress that Valerie has made in school and at home has allowed Kelly to view Valerie as a mature, young adult and has fostered mutual respect between them. Overall, being in Lifesharing has helped Valerie develop the strong family and community ties she wanted all along.
Leonora is very creative and loves to make dolls of all different shapes and sizes. Her favorite doll, Shakaya (in photo), never leaves her side. When Mom was asked how her talent was discovered mom explained, “When Leonora was a little girl, I’d always give her my pamphlet at church to keep her occupied during the service. She would crump and tear the paper until it resembled a doll. As she grew, her dolls became more elaborate and her father started to purchase clothing for them.” Now Leonora loves to shop for her clothes for her dolls. Leonora also loves dragons and the trapeze. She attends classes at the Philadelphia circus school. Very cool!
Christopher 's Story
Chris is a quiet guy who knows what he wants. Chris moved into a CLA after his mother was no longer able to care for him in 2007. Even then, Chris knew that living in a CLA was not where he wanted to stay. He had goals of slowly becoming more independent. His next step was moving into a CLA that had minimal staffing in 2014. Once he became comfortable with that, he let his team know he was ready for his next step, which was to live in lifesharing. Chris moved into his lifesharing home in June 2018 and it has been a perfect fit for him. Eventually, Chris wants to live on his own and is working towards that goal. Chris attended a CPS program, but became bored with this and wanted to work competitively. With support, he had a few jobs off and on until he finally started working part time at Acme. He has been employed for almost 2 years and loves it. Chris also previously received therapy and behavior supports but was able to let his team know when he didn’t need them anymore because he was able to express himself appropriately. Chris is proud of the progress he has made and is happy with his life.
Sara is and always has been an extremely determined young woman. She attended Cheltenham High School and was in a combination of special education and mainstream. Throughout high school she wanted to do what all of her other peers were doing, which is why her and her family advocated for a portion of her education to be in mainstream. She worked extremely hard on her education, and extracurricular activities. Sara was a member of the unified track team, a cheerleader, and was a member of her local summer swim league. When her peers began the college process Sara decided she was going to attend college as well. Sara and her family explored many options of certificate programs including, Arcadia University, East Stroudsburg, TCNJ, and Millersville. Sara enjoyed the ESU program the most, as you got to live at school and one of the main goals is independent living…which happens to be a goal of Sara for herself! She graduated high school in June of 2018 and was accepted into the ESU certificate program. After graduating high school, Sara decided she would get a job before heading off to college. She applied for jobs in OCNJ, where her family spends most of their summer. She got a job and maintained it all summer, independently, at Beach House Grille. I think Sara is an inspiration to us all, she sets goals for herself and works extremely hard to obtain those goals!
Phillip is a motivated young man who didn’t have an easy start to his life. He was adopted, and those adoptive parents passed away. An aunt stepped in to help care of him but it didn’t work out and he didn’t have the support he needed to be successful. During his later teenage years, Phillip formed a special relationship with a friend named Jeff. Jeff eventually became Phillip’s lifesharing provider and they have been living together since 2015. Jeff got married this past summer (2018) and Phillip was apprehensive about Jeff’s wife becoming a part of his life. It took only a few weeks but Phillip has adjusted and is very happy having Jeff’s wife in his life. Phillip wanted to make something of himself and wanted to go to school. He applied to the leadership and career studies program at Temple and was accepted in 2017. He successfully completed his first year and is almost half way through his second year. He struggles with anxiety and low self-esteem so sometimes has down days, but with his support system at home and Temple, he is working hard and trying things he never thought he would, like attending social events at Temple. He also works part time at a restaurant on the weekends. His ultimate goal is to be a train engineer.
Donte is a laid-back guy, who enjoys spending time with his family. Donte graduated from West Philadelphia High School in 2015 and was determined to get a job. He participated in a work program at Children’s Hospital Of Philadelphia, and also worked at a grocery store. Donte also had a strong desire to attend college; he applied to the Leadership and Career Studies Program at Temple University 2 years in a row and was not accepted. Despite the disappointment, he applied for the 3rd time in May of 2018 and was accepted! Donte was also awarded the D.R.E.A.M Scholarship which significantly decreased the cost of his education for his first semester of college. Donte has become travel trained and is able to transport himself to and from campus on public transportation. Donte has already formed friendships with his peers and mentors at school.
Donte also works part-time as a caregiver for his ailing mother. He comes from a family of musicians and has taken up the piano; he enjoys playing with his father and writing songs.
Donte is not quite sure what career path he wants to pursue at this time but is looking forward to the next 4 years of college.
Karan came from foster care. When he aged out he moved into a CLA. He built up his independent skills. Now he is a 26-year-old who lives in his own apartment through supported living. He is able to complete all his ADL’s with limited staffing support. So far, Karan has been very successful in supported living. He is learning how to write out checks to pay bills and if he has any issues or concerns, he does not hesitate to reach out to his team for help.
About two years ago, Karan was working in a local brewery as a dishwasher. He mastered the job but was unhappy with the environment. Karan spoke up about his dissatisfaction. With the support of his staff, he went out and searched for a new job. Within a few months, he landed a job at Olive Garden as a dishwasher where he has been working for almost two years. Karan has excelled at his job. He continually receives employee of the monthly awards. Karan is most proud of the employee of the year award he received in June 2018. For that award, he was flown out to Texas to be honored in front of his family.
Karan has a great personality. He is friendly and gets along well with others. He likes to joke around and make people laugh. He has built such solid relationships that when his peers at Olive Garden found out he wasn’t going home for Thanksgiving, they came together and bought him a plane ticket to Texas as a gift. Not only is Karan valued as a worker but also he is truly valued as a friend.
Tyric & Carolyn's Story
Tyric has struggled with purpose in his life. Often he would quit jobs after being employed only a few months. He would elope from his CLA and wander around his neighborhood. He has gotten into trouble with law enforcement because of stealing. As well as, been involved with physical altercations.
Then he met Carolyn. Not only did she make his heart skip a beat but also she gave him a reason to care about himself. In March 2017 Tyric shared the news “I am engaged!”. Tyric had found someone who gave him drive and sense of purpose. In the same conversation, he asked his SC and team to assist him with moving into a home for him and his future bride, Carolyn. The team started working with him to get things in motion. Within months leading up to the “Big Day”, Tyric became gainfully employed. With money he earned, he was able to contribute towards his wedding. The two were blissfully wed on August 8, 2017.
Shortly after the wedding, Carolyn would call the team to express her frustrations regarding her and Tyric not living together. The SC would lend an ear and provide positive reinforcement while reviewing each step of the process with Carolyn. Month after month, there would be communicate with both teams to ensure progress was being made towards the move. Then in March 2018, one year after the engagement, Carolyn and Tyric moved in to their new home.
Much a like any couple, there have been highs and lows throughout Tyric and Carolyn’s relationship. However, because of their love and support from their teams, they have a chance at a happily-ever-after.