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2015-2016 Success Stories
The following success stories provide examples of the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation's counseling services and support and Oklahoma Rehabilitation Council's oversight to help people gain employment. The last names of those helped are not provided to respect their privacy.
Michael - Transition
This young man from Elgin, Oklahoma, worked with DRS counselor, Heidi Layton, to find shelter, food, learn two trades and gain employment. When Michael first came to DRS, he was homeless / living in his car and starving. Heidi and Michael discussed options for employment and Michael attended a truck driving school. Unfortunately, this didn’t work out so he then attended Job Corp. where he learned the plumbing trade. He received his plumbing license and his life improved dramatically. Michael really liked truck driving, though, so he enrolled again in another driving school and this time, he received his CDL. In fact, he got a job within 5 minutes of applying. Now, he is a long haul truck driver with a fall-back option of plumbing. Michael says, “DRS has improved my life. My job allows me to travel across the country, make a good living, and I feel relaxed. I gladly recommend DRS to anyone needing help, it helped me a lot.”
Sheree - VR
Barriers of paranoia, fear of people and anxiety kept Sheree, a resident of Tulsa, from working. Once she met Virginia Luevano, DRS, her life began to change for the better. Virginia set Sheree up with Crossroads Counseling Consultation, to build her confidence and “people skills,” and Sassin and Associates, to assess her skills for employment. Now, Sheree works at Marshall’s department store in Tulsa as a custodian part-time and she loves her job. She feels comfortable encountering people and helping them with questions. “Counseling and guidance from Virginia, and the services, was very helpful,” says Sheree. “And, DRS gave me my first six bus passes for Tulsa Transit and that was a huge help. I love DRS.”
Carlene - VS
Due to poor eyesight, Carlene, from Tulsa, quit her job with O’Reilly Auto Parts where she had worked for 13 years. She sought out help from DRS and Grace Jordan and Tracy Brigham both helped Carline with orientation and mobility training, counseling and guidance, transportation training, adaptive equipment, and job readiness training. O’Reilly’s called Carlene back and asked her to return because they really wanted her back. Tracy stepped in again and helped Carlene get established. Carlene says, “I needed help adjusting to losing my eyesight. The devices I have to use for daily living are great and DRS was a life saver.”
Michael - VR
Michael, an Okemah resident with a vision disability, needed help in finding employment after his family’s farm was shut down. Michael wanted to help the family so he contacted DRS to help him look for janitorial work because he thought he could find a job like that in Okemah. Lisa Colbert, DRS, counseled Michael and helped him apply online for an opening at Walmart. She advised him on how to handle the interview and also found him a job coach. Michael got the job and loves it. His co-workers enjoy having him as part of their team. Michael is unable to drive due to his vision but he is saving for a cornea transplant so he can get his license back and be more independent. He commented, “DRS has improved my life and the lives of my family because it shows me things for the future. I have been in my job for one year and I still have my cows.”
Arlene - VR
This Edmond resident recently received services from DRS to assist her with hearing loss. Arlene is self-employed as a nanny and she, and her clients were frustrated because she just couldn’t hear. She would have to ask, “Now, what did you say” over and over again. Jill Oliver, DRS counselor, helped Arlene purchase hearing aids and a Bluetooth device to utilize in the car with her cell phone. Jill also set up some appointments for Arlene to receive counseling services from Fine Hearing Care in Edmond. Arlene states that “DRS helped improve my life and my family’s because it gave me confidence. I was always worried about missing something. Now, my husband and I can both hear and we aren’t screaming at each other!”
Robert - VR
Robert is Arlene’s husband and he, too, was helped by Jill Oliver of DRS. Robert needed assistance for both his hearing and his vision – his hearing was less than 50% in both ears and he has dry eyes and couldn’t see to read. Robert works as a gate attendant at Hayburn Lake and he found it very hard to communicate with people – and vice versa. Jill set Robert up with Fine Hearing Care, Edmond, and with Dr. Gorley, Edmond, for vision care. Just like his wife, Robert received hearing aids and a Bluetooth device. He says, “DRS helped improve my life 100% – my wife and I communicate better now and I have my job. I am very grateful for DRS.”
Charles - VR
Charles, of Lawton, was seeking employment and received valuable services from DRS and his counselor, Heidi Layton. Charles came to DRS to get assistance in obtaining his Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry / Education and to become a teacher. With DRS’ help, Charles received his degree from Cameron University and completed his internship at Cache High School, Lawton Public Schools. DRS helped Charles in a number of ways: assessing his vocational aptitudes, helping him obtain transportation using the Lawton Area Transit Services (LATS), providing information and referral services and aiding with his teacher certification. DRS also helped Charles with some daily living and personal needs: an accessible ramp for his home, having someone to talk to about his goals, and receiving counseling and guidance.
Charles is currently working at Eisenhower High School, Lawton Public Schools. Using his personal financial resources, Charles received his Master’s degree and is now employed as a Chemistry teacher for grades 9-12. Charles is very grateful to DRS and says, “DRS has improved my life because, as a teacher, I feel useful and my financial situation has improved.”
Shawn - VR
Shawn, from Meeker, Oklahoma, received services through DRS for her right leg below knee amputation. She benefited from DRS and Brenda Gossett’s attention. Shawn’s prosthetic leg “was worn out and falling apart” and making her job at Comfort Inn as a breakfast attendant much harder than it needed to be. Shawn has a second job as a hostess at LaDonna’s Grill and Catering in Meeker. These two jobs meant more than a 40-hour workweek and Shawn was concerned she might not be able to continue. “I heard about DRS,” she says, “called the number, and Brenda saw me immediately.” Brenda set Shawn up with services from Hanger Prosthetics for a new prosthetic leg, Shawnee Workforce Center for counseling, and she also had a hearing test. Although Shawn could be helped with hearing aids, right now, that isn’t possible. Shawn stated, “My life has improved greatly because of the DRS process. It helped me stay active and maintain my jobs. I am very appreciative of DRS – it has always been good to me.”
Keri - VR
Keri, of Cache, Oklahoma, received employment services from DRS and her counselor, Traci Lozada. Keri had a job but she wanted something more permanent and long-term so that she could provide a better life for her daughter and herself. After Keri sent her resume to Traci, Traci let her know there was a position opening at the Galt Foundation, a professional staffing service, in Oklahoma City. Keri got the job as a receptionist and because Galt and DRS coordinate their services, Keri learned a lot about being a rehabilitation tech and how the process flows to, and from, DRS. In time, Keri applied for an opening with DRS and she has worked in the Lawton office since November 2015. Keri states, “Traci has been very involved with my case. She let me know of job openings and checked on me all the time as well as providing me a clothing allowance for interviews. Traci was a great counselor.” As for DRS, Keri says, “DRS has provided me with a steady income, benefits, the ability to pay off my car and save money for a future home for my daughter and me.” Keri has a positive message that has helped her continue to be successful: live life positively and surround yourself with positive people.
Phillip - VR
Tulsan Phillip received services from DRS due to his progressive hearing loss. He is totally deaf in one ear and the other ear needed an eardrum replacement and hearing aids. Phillip works as a driver at Hertz and really loves his job. However, increasingly, he was having a hard time finding jobs because he couldn’t hear over the phone – an essential tool of his work as a driver.
Sandy Keesee, from DRS, helped Phillip receive the eardrum replacement surgery in January 2015 from Dr. John Mowry and then she helped him get the hearing aids. She also helped him connect with companies for position openings and he receives job fair notices. Phillip states, “DRS helped improve my life and my family relations because now I can communicate better. Learning the texting capability on the cellphone has helped me – it’s wonderful!” He continued, “Although the surgery didn’t improve the function of my ear, it certainly improved my health.”
Audrey - Deaf and Hard of Hearing
DRS counselor, Sandy Keese, assisted Audrey, from Tulsa, with her disabilities related to hearing loss. Audrey received occupational training at Paul Mitchell where she received her Cosmetology Certificate. She now works at Dapper, Inc., in Tulsa. Sandy also provided Audrey with counseling and guidance, clothing, and a referral to Jackie Scholl for adaptive equipment such as a hearing aid for her right ear, re-programming her old cochlear implant and eventually, getting a new cochlear implant.
Due to her improved hearing and communication skills, Audrey is excited about working at Dapper and building a deaf customer base. And, her employer is excited to welcome a new, diverse population to his establishment. Audrey commented, “Sandy was so helpful. I have gained more confidence and look forward to reaching out to Tulsa’s deaf community.”
Ashley - Transition
Ashley, from Claremore, received services through DRS for her disabilities related to her hearing loss in her right ear as well as her mild cerebral palsy. She had great assistance from her counselor, Terri Schrader, who assisted her by providing supported employment, counseling and guidance, clothing, and assessments, information and referral. Ashley stated that she “used her Social Security monies for transportation to get to and from vendors and work.” She is now working at Walmart in Owasso doing janitorial / maintenance work and she likes her job.
Ashley had barriers of hearing and communication. She was very nervous and she didn’t know what she wanted to do or how to plan for her future. Ashley had assistance from her job coach, Johnna Brown, through Supported Employment with Futures for Tomorrow, paid for by DRS. For 90 days, Ashley was assisted by her job coach and she is very grateful for this time. Her boss, Miranda McIntosh, Thad Maximus and Chris Kanoze, further trained her.
Regarding Terri, Ashley commented, “Terri did a lot of work and helped me out a lot. The opportunity that DRS gave me made things a lot better for my family. We are not stressed and now I can pay for my own car and help with my family.”
Devon - VR
Devon, from Tulsa, received services through DRS for the disabilities related to his right hand and amputation that occurred as a very small child. He has undergone at least 15 surgeries to his hand in his childhood and adult life. Terri Schrader, DRS counselor, greatly assisted Devon by providing information on colleges and universities he might attend and building his self-confidence and life skills. Devon completed a Physiology Degree at OSU, a Bachelor of Science and Nursing from OU and a Master’s Degree from OU in Family Nurse Practitioner, Counseling and Guidance.
He now works at his “dream job” – the Utica Park Clinic (UPC), an outpatient facility in Tulsa associated with Hillcrest HealthCare System. Devon sees patients on a daily basis and treats people for their current health conditions. He says, “Knowing how much that surgery helped me, I want to help others with their afflictions or illnesses.” Devon received services from DRS, Workforce Oklahoma, the University of Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State University. He states that “I had many counselors over the years, but Terri was very resourceful and I am grateful for DRS and the opportunities that I was given.”
Angie - Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Angie, from Bixby, Oklahoma received services through DRS for her disabilities related to her profound hearing loss. She had great assistance from her counselor / Program Manager, Jonathon Cook. Her counselor assisted her by providing counseling and guidance, clothing, transportation, telecommunications, information, referral and job placement. She also received humidifiers for her ears as well as adaptive equipment such as a Comfort Contego. This device is an amplifier that hooks up to her phone and provides excellent sound quality without time lag.
Angie received assistance with her resume through DRS as well as building up her confidence and self-esteem. She is now working full-time as a Program Assistant for the Interpreter Referral Program at Total Source for Hearing-loss & Access (TSHA) in Tulsa and absolutely loves her job. In October 2015, she was chosen to be 1 of the 5 individuals nationwide to be a part of the MED-EL (Austrian Hearing Implant Company) study, in which she received a device offering more natural hearing. Although not approved yet by the FDA yet, Angie stated, “My hearing is beautiful.”
Success Stories are continued below in a little different format...
Counseling and Guidance; Tribal Choctaw Nation VR helped with Transportation; Laptop; Vocational Evaluation; Information and Referral Services
“DRS helped my family substantially, I am now able to pay bills, buy necessities, and pay for my husbands’ doctor bills. We are able to survive and live!” Amanda has also overcome some personal barriers and DRS taught her the technique of opposition thinking* which is helping her in her new job. “I am not intimidated and have confidence that I didn’t have before.
*Opposition thinking is a simple technique of substituting a positive thought each and every time a negative or limiting thought enters the mind. This begins to distract the mind from a negative focus and creates a new pattern of positive thinking.
Counseling and Guidance; College Training; Vocational Evaluation; Physical Restoration; Glasses Information and Referral Services
Bethany states, “DRS helped me with some financial burdens due to my parents’ divorce. I can pay most of my medical bills myself.”
“Also, I have increased confidence that as a dietitian, I have a job that will continue to assist me with all of my medical bills. This job is suited to my disability and I enjoy calculating IV nutrition needs for critical care patients. Emotionally, this work is helping me feel like I have a purpose. I feel like I am giving back and helping others.”
Counseling and Guidance; Tools – Milling Machine; Physical Restoration; Adaptive Equipment – Closed Circuit TV (CCTV); Information and Referral Services; Job Placement
Bud has overcome barriers related to the progressive loss of his eyesight – only one eye could see when he was first diagnosed; now, he has lost sight to both eyes.
Bud states, “I went from not wanting to live to a fantastic life because of the help I received. Don’t give up! If it weren’t for DRS, I wouldn’t have a life.”
“I am so thankful for all the assistance I have received through VS at DRS. Melissa, my counselor, has been great and has been with me throughout the year.”
Counseling and Guidance / Information and Referral Services / Training / Tuition and Books / Transportation
|The Story:||Diana states, “DRS provided me a laptop to be able to do all of my work for school as well as a printer to ensure all of my assignments are completed. This allows me enough time to study since I can take notes on my computer. They also provided me a backpack to carry my books in. Tuition and fees have been paid for by DRS and they pay my transportation to Langston-Tulsa weekly. I was always taught to never quit by my parents and that is why I am still going because of the services that DRS continues to provide me”|
Counseling and Guidance / Information and Referral Services; Vocational Evaluation / Job Readiness Training / School Work-Study
|The Story:||Domenyk states, “I am very grateful for all of the opportunities given to me through DRS. My life has changed and it is totally different now. I get to spend my money, go out with friends, pay my phone bill and car payment as well as help my mom with rent.”|
Counseling and Guidance; Vocational Evaluation; Assessment; Adaptive Equipment; Information and Referral Services; ABLE Tech
Jared states, “DRS gave me my freedom back. I now have an accessible van and a job that I enjoy. I am a 5th grade teacher and I absolutely love it. I have gotten the chance to be 16 again!”
“DRS provided me with the equipment I needed as well including a scooter and a flatbed lift. I continue to farm part-time thanks to this equipment and all the encouragement I received from Rhonda, my DRS counselor. Rhonda is a great counselor and it’s obvious she enjoys her job.”
Vocational Training; Counseling and Guidance; Transportation; Clothes; Vocational Evaluation; Tribal VR Services; Adaptive Equipment – Hearing aids; Glasses; Medicines – Seminole and Creek Tribes; DHS; Social Security; Veterans Assistance; Workforce; Miscellaneous – which entails tires, motor, transmission and windshield to his truck; Information and Referral Services
Johnny states, “I received great service through DRS and the Delaware Nation Tribal VR. Everyone was helpful to me.” Johnny received counseling and many services that enabled his attendance at Metro Tech to learn carpentry. He excelled in this environment and earned excellent marks! In fact, he was honored as Student of the Month and holds an OSHA certificate which is the hazard recognition training he’ll need for any job in Oklahoma or other states.
Johnny goes on to say, “I think DRS and the Tribal VR are great organizations and I thank God every day for the help.”
Counseling and Guidance; Clothing; Transportation; Training; Tools; Job Readiness Training; Job Placement; Assessment; Information and Referral Services
|The Story:||Marla states, “I was ill but not so sickly that I couldn’t work. DRS provided me with motivation and counseling services. I needed tools and to go to classes and DRS helped me in every way. My income is up and I am not depending on Social Security. I have now purchased a home and I’m not depending on others.”|
Counseling and Guidance / Information and Referral Services; College Training / Job Placement
|The Story:||Martin states, “DRS has enabled me to get off disability and become a productive member of society. My life will continue to improve and progress as I help others through my career as an Education Counselor. DRS helped me attain the education to do this work. I love that I can give people hope and purpose and tell them that anything can be accomplished, you just have to be willing to do the work.”|
Counseling and Guidance / Information and Referral Services; Adaptive Equipment (designed chair, smoothed doorstep into sidewalk, ceiling lift, chair lift, shower chair, iPad attachment mount and mover)
Marty states, “Without VR, I would have been in a nursing home. DRS gave us hope and we can still help others. I still get to do what I love as a doctor, I now get to present to other doctors who share the same love for helping others. My well-being is improved and I feel as though my lifespan will be extended. DRS has given me a reason to live and we are so blessed to have had this help to function and feel like members of society.”
Counseling and Guidance / Information and Referral Services; Training / Job Placement; Clothing / Computer / Adaptive Equipment
|The Story:||Megan states, “I have money coming in now! Social Security is just not enough and I had to have a steady income. I am single, so I get to do more things and get out there and expose myself to life. I am grateful for all the services provided to me through DRS and I enjoy being a rehab teacher for the very agency that helped me.”|
Counseling and Guidance / Job Training / Clothing and Transportation Allowance / Employment and Retention Services / Assistive Technology / Prosthetics / Information and Referral Services
|The Story:||Tamesha has MS (Muscular Sclerosis) and, although she had Social Security and Medicare benefits, she was not thriving. With DRS’ help, Tamesha received counseling that helped her feel more confident and get back into the community. She was also helped with job searches and gaining employment. New Assistive Technology in the form of a walker she could purchase with her Medicare benefits now allows her much more ease in getting around. Tamesha says, “I want to thank everyone at DRS for helping me get back into society. I have been working for 9 months now and I am no longer ashamed of my disability.”|
Counseling and Guidance / College Training / Assistive Technology
|The Story:||Ryann has significant vision and hearing loss and she also has a great love of horses. She earned an associate degree in Equine Science Management from Morrisville State College in Morrisville, New York. Through the help of a mentor at the University of Oklahoma, Ryann enrolled at Oklahoma State University with a major in recreational therapy and hoped to eventually get into the field of hippotherapy – therapy with horses and people with disabilities. Although she dropped out for 18 months, Ryann returned to OSU and chose a new major, recreational management. She completed her degree and says, “My next move is to find a job – I’d like to work in a YMCA, health club or, especially, a non-profit offering hippotherapy.”|
Counseling and Guidance / Job Placement & Job Coaching / Clothing & Transportation / Supported Employment / Information and Referral Services
|The Story:||Crystal writes: “Soon after I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I was sitting on a bench at the Muskogee DRS office feeling depressed with no direction in my life. I was approached by an employee and she asked me if I was feeling OK, saying that I looked a little down. After sharing information with her about my disorder and how it had affected my life tremendously, she told me about DRS and how I could probably become a client. Since that day, DRS has helped me find a job where I became assistant manager within the first 6 months. They helped me with my work uniform. I also received assistance from a job coach, who has been a great mentor.”|
Counseling and Guidance / Transition Services / College Training / Room & Board at College / Assistive Technology
|The Story:||Tiffany won the Miss Black UCO 2012 scholarship pageant and used her invisible disability – dyslexia – as her platform during her reign. As part of the competition, Tiffany described the “heart attack feeling” she would get when called upon to read aloud in school and how much she was affected by people telling her she couldn’t be a success because she was black, a female and couldn’t read well. Tiffany’s DRS counselor, Shanel Armstrong, helped her control her anxiety and process information with deep breathing techniques and general counseling. Tiffany now says, “At first, I thought it was a curse to be dyslexic but now, I call it a ‘gift’ because I learn differently. I look at the world differently. I’m just me.”|
Counseling and Guidance / College Training / Job Placement / Job Search Assistance
Alex entered the vocational rehabilitation program because of his diabetes and desire to go to work and was referred to VR from Workforce. He was raising his 11-year-old-son, Payton. He was a little worried about a couple of classes in the beginning at Kiamichi Technical Center and to further his education at OSU-Okmulgee to get his degree. He was more worried about how his grades were going to turn out. He did great. He was definitely a dedicated student. It’s also these responsibilities that push him and make him determined to succeed.
“This job has helped me to be with my mother and my son and that brings me closer to a family life. I see in my future being here, snd then retiring. This job has also allowed me to cut back on working on the side or working late hours. I'm able to go home and actually sit down and watch a movie with my son,” Alex said. “I'm able to take him to movies, too.”
Alex intends to give back and help others with the skills he acquired and the experiences he had through DRS and his job. He said, “I'm building a house right now. I got approved for Habitat for Humanity. I installed the air conditioner. I framed it. I did everything. When I get my contractor’s license, I plan to give back to Habitat for Humanity and install air conditioners for them as a volunteer.”