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Oklahoma State University
Oklahoma Rehabilitation Council

ORC - Serving All Oklahomans with Disabilities

2017-18 Success Stories

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."
– Winston Churchill

 

Oklahoma Rehabilitation Council's new operational year began on October 1st, 2017. 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.

20182017 2016

DRS Client:

Vicky

Disability: Diabetes, Stroke (that caused her Blindness)   |   Counselor: Simonne Jones

Vicky
Services:

Counseling and guidance, information and referrals, TAP program, Pharmacy for the first three months, Low vision aids, Transportation, Funding for Blindness Conferences to Oklahoma Council for the Blind (OCB) and/or National Federation of the Blind (NFB) trainings.

The Story:

At 17 years old, Vicky had a stroke that left her with amnesia and almost blind. She had a very difficult recovery but with the help of her mom she graduated High School and eventually got a job. She worked for many years but in 2008, her health issues kept getting worse and she had to apply for Social Security.

Vicky applied for DRS services and during her initial interview with her Counselor, Simonne Jones, they discovered that she could turn what she thought was a just a hobby into a business. She had been crocheting and knitting since she had her stroke. First, she used it as therapy, and then she kept doing it because she loved it; now, Vicky has started her own business called WiiVii Knit Designs.

DRS assisted Vicky with TAP and ABLE training and she received a CCTV that she uses to read her knitting patterns, a magnifier to help with her stitching, a computer with a program that would read materials to her, and the startup funds for supplies and materials for her business among other things.

Vicky stated…

  • “DRS and my counselor, Simonne, have provided me with a purpose again and I am now excited about my future."

DRS Client:

Todd

Disability: Anxiety   |   Counselor: DRS - Janice Seard; DRS Tech - Maria Booker

Todd
Services:

Counseling and guidance, College/University Training, clothing allowance, Eye Exam and glasses, Job Placement, and Occupational Training and Information and referrals.

The Story:

Todd’s story started when he began believing in God and accepting Jesus Christ as his savior. He had made many mistakes over the years and dealt with high anxiety and social exclusivity among other issues. One of those mistakes landed him in prison for 15 years. Nearing the end of his incarceration, he was accepted to the Living Faith Ministry where they helped him deepen his relationship with Christ. He was extremely behind with basic health needs and his knowledge of technology.

Todd applied for DRS services in April of 2015 and was assigned Janice Seard as his Counselor. She was there to help him in any way she could, and he felt very comfortable sharing with her as he believes she is very compassionate and caring. His health needs were addressed and he got an eye exam and glasses. For the first few months, he was unable to find employment and felt his anxiety rise. He eventually was hired part time at a computer company, but it was hard for him to learn technology. His Counselor suggested going to a Career Tech Center to get some training.

DRS helped pay for a computer class at Metro Technology Center and this was his turning point in life. While at Metro Tech he maintained a 4.0 GPA and was named Student of the Year in 2016. Today, because of the technology that he learned at Metro Tech, Todd is able to have a career as a Copier Service Technician. Todd says he is very thankful for Janice and DRS.

DRS Client:

Sandra

Disability: Macular Degeneration and Third Nerve Palsy in her left eye   |   Counselor: Debbie Eagle

Sandra
Services:

ABLE and TAP, bought her Braille typewriter

The Story:

Sandra is a retired Nurse that likes to stay busy. She contacted DRS in 2015 after a fall caused complete blindness in one eye and macular degeneration limited the vision in her other.

DRS has helped Sandra cope with her new reality through training, she has attended TAP and ABLE, she attended the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired to learn Braille and received orientation and mobility training. Sandra is now able to read and write in Braille, takes the bus wherever she needs to go, cooks and has started painting and quilting again.

Sandra is an advocate for people with disabilities and is very passionate about helping others; she attended Disability Awareness Day at the Capitol in March of 2018 and talked to several representatives about how they could help and support different programs. She also volunteers in the information booth at the Tulsa International airport where she has the opportunity to show the public that people with disabilities can do.

DRS Client:

Roger

Disability: Paraplegia, nerve damage and arthritis   |   Counselor: Kay Crothers & Felicia Harris

Roger (no photo)
Services:

Counseling and Guidance, Vehicle Modification, driving training and AT Evaluation.

The Story:

Roger had the goal to return to work and his paraplegia was not going to stop him. He came to DRS and after two years and help for van modifications; he was able to do it.

The new van also gave him overall independence to be able to drive and take care of personal business

DRS Client:

Rhonda

Disability: Retinitis Pigmentosa

Rhonda
Services:

Business Enterprise Program (BEP)

The Story:
Rhonda was diagnosed with an acute case of Retinitis Pigmentosa affecting her since birth. She attended public school through the 5th grade with much difficulty and was then transferred to the Oklahoma School for the Blind in Muskogee where she graduated in 1977. With skilled teachers at OSB, she was able to graduate a year early and even attended the Indian Capital Technology Center in Muskogee acquiring secretarial skills. Rhonda attended college at Northeastern State University for 4 semesters with the help of DRS. She married at the end of this time and she and her husband were concerned that living in a rural area she would have little opportunity for employment. 
 
After raising her son, she attended Central State Massage Academy but soon realized that she could not make enough money to help make a living for her family. In 2005 she contacted DRS to enroll in the Oklahoma Business Enterprise Program (BEP) after visiting with a former classmate of hers who was currently working in the program.
 
Rhonda was awarded her first facility in 2006 after completing her training. Her facility consists of servicing the vending machines for the staff and visitors at Oklahoma State Penitentiary, Jackie Brannon Correctional Center, Pittsburg County Courthouse, Sallisaw DHS, Sallisaw Tourist Center and Talihina Veterans Center Canteen. She also managed the Tulsa County Courthouse for almost three years at the same time. 
 
The BEP has the federal and state authority to operate facilities in federal, state and county buildings servicing vending machines, snack bars and dining facilities. Rhonda believes that BEP is not just a wonderful way to be employed but self-employed. She pays federal, state, county and local taxes. She has employed up to 7 employees with her guide dog, Pax, in charge of public relations. Rhonda is thankful for the opportunity that BEP gives her to be able to be a productive citizen as a small businesswoman.

DRS Client:

Renee

Disability: Legally Blind

Renee
Services:

Business Enterprise Program (BEP)

The Story:
Renee was born legally blind and graduated from the Oklahoma School for the Blind and had virtually no work experience. She was a stay-at-home wife and mother until her husband was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer. She turned to DRS and Visual Services for help finding work. Her counselor arranged a meeting with the Business Enterprise Program. She was accepted into the program and spent several months in OKC learning about sales tax permits, ServSafe test (food handling certification) and monthly reports and lots more.
 
Before the BEP and DRS Renee had tried to find a job but the only openings she found were minimum wage jobs which would not have supported her family. Renee now makes a living running a very successful vending business. She has almost 50 machines in VA Call Centers and prisons and has 3 employees. 

DRS Client:

Mary

Disability: Hip surgery  |   Counselor: Tim Yeahquo

Mary
Services:

Counseling and Guidance, Job Placement, and the purchase of assistive technology in the form of office equipment that would help her do her job.

The Story:

Mary reached out to the Cheyenne Arapaho VR Program after applying to various job positions and not having any luck finding a job. There, her Counselor, Tim Yeahquo, talked to Mary and started helping her with her job search.

After some searching, her counselor, Tim, talked to Mary about a receptionist position. She applied for it and got the job!

The Cheyenne Arapaho Tribe assisted Mary with the purchase of a stand-up desk and a chair that would help her with the pain in her hip.

Mary states…

  • “My new job is a positive step in my life and I have learned a lot about education, employment and community services. I now pass on related information to people seeking help in those areas.”

DRS Client:

Lyndsi

Disability: Orthopedic

Lyndsi
Services:
Training, Counseling and Guidance.
The Story:

Lyndsi was injured while she was in High School, and because of it, she needed a sedentary career field. Once she graduated, and in order for her to have a successful employment outcome, she needed to obtain a higher education degree.

Lyndsi attended Southeastern Oklahoma State College where she received a Bachelor’s Degree in the Health Field. When she graduated college, she was hired at the Choctaw Nation as an Elder Advocate where she supports Native American elders that are physically, emotionally, and self-neglected, by advocating as their Social Worker to provide a healthy lifestyle.

DRS Client:

Kenneth

Disability: Learning Disability   |   Counselor: Mary Ross - Tribal - Cherokee Nation VR Program

Kenneth
Services:

Counseling and Guidance, Clothing, Uniforms, Job Readiness Training, Information and Referral.

The Story:

Kenneth reached out to the Cherokee Nation Employment Program for help to find a job. There his Counselor, Mary Ross, assisted him to obtain a day work position in the area of Culinary Arts; however, due to extreme shyness he was removed from this position.

The Cherokee Nation VR Program provided Kenneth with Counseling and Guidance, and a one on one Life Skills Training with emphasis on social and communication skills. He also received assistance with the purchase of clothing and shoes.

After the training Kenneth was hired at the Warehouse Market as a Dairy Stocker and has developed good work ethics including responsibility of attendance, completing assigned tasks and good communication with his coworkers; he now exhibits improved self-esteem.

DRS Client:

Julia

Disability: Glaucoma   |   Counselor: Ron Baker

Julia (no photo)
Services:

Training, Counseling and Guidance, Job Readiness Training, Job Placement and Information and Referral.

The Story:
Julia is a 26-year old Native American woman from rural Red Rock, OK. She has glaucoma and became a client when she was a junior in High School when the Oklahoma Tribal Vocational Rehabilitation (OKTVR) helped her with the ACT costs and additional testing fees. The support continued on into college where OKTVR helped with college expenses including a laptop, books, tuition and fees, stipend, transportation, vehicle repairs and counseling and guidance for Julia to get her B.S and Physician Assistant Degree.
 
She works now with native communities in rural areas and she believes she could not have completed her high school and college education without OKTVR.
 
Julia is very grateful and appreciative for being given the opportunity to have the support of OKTVR and her Counselor, Ron Baker, who was always available and very supportive in her journey.
 

DRS Client:

Gerald

Disability: Diabetes, PTSD   |   Counselor: Shellean Garcia and Rachel Allen

Gerald
Services:

Transportation, Counseling and Guidance, Clothing Allowance, Job Placement, Training, Physical Restoration, Job Readiness Training and Information and Referral.

The Story:
Gerald got his Bachelor of Arts in Substance Abuse Studies thanks to the help of the Delaware Nation Vocational Rehabilitation Program (DNVR). He also accomplished an Associate of Arts degree in Criminal Justice.
 
While working on his degree Gerald endured many hardships. He stayed at a homeless shelter and, at times, he had to do his homework under a flashlight; some days he was ready to cash it all in and give up, but with the assistance and encouragement from the staff at DNVR he was able to finish his degree.
 
Gerald has strong convictions in pursuit of working with individuals suffering from addiction because he has endured the same affliction, and it is his desire now to work with the Native population because he is aware of the issues in his community.
 
Gerald would like to thank his Counselors, Shellean Garcia and Rachel Allen, as they both helped him rise above adversity during his case. He is now working at the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS), and enjoys what he feels is his calling. He still wants to pursue a Master of Arts in Substance Abuse Studies and he wants to get his license to be an Alcohol and Drug Counselor.
 
Gerald still remembers when many skeptics were not on his side and they said he would not get through with what he had set up for himself; however, he had many of the right people in his corner and with the right support and his desire, he was able to overcome.
 

DRS Client:

Chelsea

Disability: Diabetes   |   Counselor: Simonne Jones

Chelsea
Services:

Counseling and Guidance, Information and Referrals, College Assistance, Tuition and Books, Glasses, Diabetic Education, Transition program, Assistive Technology services and devices.

The Story:

Transition Case

Chelsea has Type 1 Diabetes; she is 28 years old now but she started getting DRS Services when she was 18 and a freshman in College.
 
She found out about DRS through some friends at Diabetes Camp, they had been getting services for a while and they told her she could probably qualify for services as well. She applied and was eligible.
 
She was attending Oklahoma University (OU) at the time but one of her family members offered to help her with housing at Oklahoma State University (OSU) in Stillwater and she decided to move. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Sociology and she specialized in Crime and Deviance. After that, she did an internship with a Wilderness Survival Program but it was very difficult for her because she has Vitiligo and she cannot be exposed to sunlight. 
 
Later, she realized that research was a passion of hers and she went on to get a Master’s Degree in Forensic Psychology. During this time, she had to learn how to cope with her Diabetes and the added stress from Graduate School had an impact on her health. 
 
Now, for the past four years, she has been working on her PhD. in the Sociology Program at OSU, and she is specializing in in Crime and Deviance and Social Psychology; she will be graduating in December of 2018.
 
Chelsea wants to join the OSU Forensics Department as they are just starting to set up their PhD. Department and teach courses. 

DRS Client:

Collier

Counselor: Shyreeta Hearne

Collier (no photo)
Services:

Counseling and Guidance; Tuition and Books; Information and Referral Services

The Story:
Collier was born and raised in Oklahoma City. Her upbringing on the outside looked like a decent one; she attended a private school however but she did not like it. Her classmates were mean to her and when she was in her sophomore year, she was asked to leave that school. She ultimately moved to a different school and graduated.
 
At 19, she was pregnant with her first child and had a bad cocaine addiction. At 22, she had a cocaine overdose at a restaurant in downtown Oklahoma City. She fell and hit her head. The fall caused stroke-like symptoms, and as a result, she has two lesions in her brain and Parkinsonian Syndrome. She was in the hospital for 2 months and after she was released, she started attending New View and they referred her to DRS.
 
After applying for DRS services in 2008, she attended ABLE during the summer but she was depressed because her new reality was becoming more and more difficult, but she says her DRS Counselors never gave up on her and they kept calling her. 
 
She faced more difficulties in the years to come and another drug addiction that made her progress slow, but she says that DRS was always there. Her counselors kept reaching out and encouraging her and that support meant a lot to her, because she didn’t have it from anyone else. 
 
She went to rehab out of state and when she came back to Oklahoma, she was ready to get her life on track, so she contacted Shyreeta Hearne, her new DRS Counselor, and started the process to reapply for services. Collier enrolled in Oklahoma City Community College (OCCC) in 2017; DRS assisted her with tuition and books; her goal is to become a paralegal. She currently has a 3.4 GPA and has 2 semesters left to get her Associate’s Degree. She is now working as a Tech at the DRS Visual Services Office; she loves working there and helping other DRS clients. She is also supporting her kids and making a new life for herself and her family. 
 

DRS Client:

Felicia

Disability: Congenital Cataracts and Diabetes   |   Counselor: Simonne Jones

Felicia
Services:

Assistive Technology training and devices, college assistance, rehabilitation teaching, orientation and mobility, Work Assistive technology evaluation and devices, diagnosis and treatment services, low vision aids, adaptive equipment, counseling and guidance, information and referrals, TAP program, transportation, Funding for Blindness Conferences to OCB and/or NFB training, clothing assistance, on the job training, and reader services.

The Story:

Felicia moved to Oklahoma in 2015 from Georgia, she knew about Vocational Rehabilitation because she received services there, but when she reached out to DRS in Oklahoma her life changed.

She has Congenital Cataracts, and because of it, she has no peripheral vision and light sensitivity. When she came to DRS, her Counselor Simonne Jones asked her if she knew how to use a cane and when Felicia told her that she did not she was immediately enrolled in TAP and ABLE, both trainings gave her independence and a new perspective of what she could accomplish in life.

As a career goal Felicia wanted to become a Receptionist, so her Counselor encouraged her to start the 10-month receptionist training at DRS. By the time she was done with the training Felicia had a new job lined up. Her receptionist career was short lived, as she got a promotion and became the first blind Employment Consultant in Oklahoma.

After some more consideration Felicia now wants to become a social worker and is going to school to get her Master’s with the help of DRS. She has also received assistive technology training and devices, low vision aids, adaptive equipment, clothing assistance, on the job training, counseling and guidance and other services.

Felicia states...

  • "DRS has given me the tools to move forward. I still have work to do and to work hard but I know that I have the assistance of DRS and my counselor whenever I need it."

DRS Client:

Garrett

Disability: I.D. and ADHD   |   Counselor: Terrisha Osborn

Garrett
Services:

Project SEARCH and employment and retention

The Story:

Garret was in his senior year at Norman High School when he started Project SEARCH at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Norman; he went through the interview process in 2015 and was selected as one of the first students to participate in the program. Project SEARCH follows the school year calendar and the students go to the hotel for training and classes as they would High School. During this year Garret learn how to do job applications, practiced the interview process and his soft skills.

The program has four rotations in total and Garrett participated in all of them. After the school year was over, the hotel had some positions available that they wanted to fill with students from Project SEARCH, so Garrett got his resume ready and put all the skills he learned to good use.

He has been working at the Embassy Suites since 2016 as a Banquet Set-Up Assistant, a job he likes and does for 25 hours each week. Part of his responsibilities include flipping the rooms depending on the conference or activity scheduled at the hotel. This includes setting up the tables, chairs, silverware and water stations. The conference rooms can hold from 25 to 1000 people at once, so the workload varies from week to week, but they are always busy.

Since he started Project SEARCH, Garret has become more independent and mature according to his Mom, so much so that he even got his driver’s license and is giving his coworkers a ride to work.

Garret loves sports and enjoys talking to everyone at the hotel, including the out of state teams that stay at the hotel during the Oklahoma University football season.

DRS Client:

Taylor

Disability: Scoliosis / Dandy Walker Syndrome / Mild Cerebral Palsy

Taylor
Services:
Counseling and Guidance; College Training (Books, Fees and Tuition); Information and Referral Services
 
The Story:

The Woodward office assisted Taylor with services and being successful. He received assistance through receiving college training for his Bachelor’s Degree in History from North West Oklahoma State.  Without the assistance from DRS, he would not be able to have an education nor information for applying for jobs.

Taylor volunteered at the Woodward Pioneer Museum and through that experience was able to be employed at the Fort Supply Historic Site as a Site Manager. He graduated high school from Fort Supply and knows everyone. This is a perfect job for him as he gets to do research about the different historical sites (mostly Fort Supply), gets to be a tour guide for when people visit and he maintains the grounds of the site.  He is doing well and loves his job.There is a lot of history in the Historic Site that Taylor can tell you about. If you get a chance, go by and visit. You can find more information about it at www.okhistory.org/sites/fortsupply.

Taylor comments... 

  • “I have enjoyed learning and teaching as it is better than sitting at home doing nothing.”

  • “I have the money to get what I want and I have the family support in the small town of Fort Supply.”

DRS Client:

Mary Ann

Disability: Cataracts

Mary Ann
Services:

Counseling and Guidance; Vocational Evaluation; Physical Restoration (glasses, vision and eye exam and cataracts; Job Placement; Assessment; Information and Referral Services

The Story:

Mary Ann is very excited to be a success story for Department of Rehabilitation Services (DRS). Jeannette with the Enid office and other staff at the Enid office assisted Mary Ann with services and being successful. She lost her job at Norris and went to Workforce.  She encountered Jody Palmer with Oneida at that time and she was assigned 20 hours a week for 3 years and then Red Cross closed down.  She then met Jeanette through Workforce and she was assigned a job coach, Sindy Clemons and within days she had a job for her. Mr. Kiss had interviews and hired Mary Ann on the spot.

Mary Ann is an award-winning poet for the Western World and makes wonderful poetry as a hobby. She is currently working for the Enid Correctional Center as a Food Specialist III. She also volunteers at My Daily Bread and serves the homeless. Mary Ann leaves us with a quote “If the tools are laying around, pick them up, if the door is closed, push it open.” 

Mary Ann states... 

  • “I can’t say enough accolades for the Enid DRS office; they threw a life raft to me.” 

  • “I can pay all my bills and it gives a sense of security and peacefulness – a solid foundation.”

  • “I have learned a great deal about facing poverty head on and I have learned a lot about myself.” 

DRS Client:

James

Disability: Depression; Avoidant Personality Disorder; ADD; Major Depressive Affective Disorder

James
Services:

Counseling and Guidance; Training – Comp Tia – A+ Certification; Uniforms; Physical Restoration (glasses), Tools; Assessment; Self-Employment plan services; Small Business courses; Start-up money; Information and Referral Services

The Story:

James went from married to separated, sleeping in a car and homeless over a period of time. He was trying to start a new life while renting a shop for living purposes and staying at a church. Thankfully, he got started with DRS through a referral from Workforce. Valerie, with the McAlester office, provided him the much needed counseling and guidance to help him become a business owner. Through a self-employment plan and a 6-week small business course at Kiamichi Vo-Tech, James became certified as a Comp Tia A+ Certification holder (IT).

James now owns his own Repair Technician shop called "Recovery Technology by James", where fixes screens on phones, equipment such as computers and other technological items and loves his job.  He also has a new sign out front and has custom shirts that bear the shop's name. DRS assisted him in getting the sign and shirts. James has his own sign in his shop that reads, “Homeless to Business Owner to giving back to the Community, Thank you Jesus, amen.” 

James states... 

  • "Barriers that DRS helped me overcome were helping me become my own boss with my own hours and I push myself daily.”

  • “I have also started communicating better and am now common law married to my wife again.”

  • “I have bounced on rock bottom to realize what was going on and the last 6 months I have been more proactive and self-conscious.”

  • James also comments “I am giving back to the community. Last year, I donated $500.00 in school supplies to Krebs, William Gage and Emerson Schools.”

  • “I have also been able to support the Oklahoma Project Woman where women can get tested for breast cancer. For each $10.00 repair, I donated to the cause and ended up raising $800.00 and had a pink beard for the cause.”

DRS Client:

Jason

Disability: Hearing Loss

Jason
Services:

Counseling and Guidance; Physical Restoration (hearing aids); Adaptive Equipment     (Unitron Blue Tooth operates phone and volume up and down); Information and Referral Services

The Story:

Jason worked in the oilfield for 30 years and was laid off. At that point he put in an application for unemployment, which didn’t pay as much as he wanted. He worked odd jobs here and there and put an application in at ODOT. After his interview with ODOT, he received a call for him to come in and work because of his experience. He was so excited, but one thing still remained, he couldn’t hear. So, his friend had heard of Warren Clinic and he went to get his hearing checked out because his new job was suffering. At that time, Dr. Harrison at Warren Clinic – Audiology contacted Kristi at the McAlester office and he began the application process for DRS. The audiology report was sent to Kristi and he ended up getting hearing aids due to his hearing loss. After being in the oilfields for 30 years and not ever using hearing safety protection as they weren’t forced to until 2000, the damage had already been done.

Jason is still working at ODOT and has been for a year and a half. He is an Operator Technician II and is so grateful to DRS for saving his current job and for all of the services. His boss had nothing but good things to say about Jason and he did mention that it is hard to keep anything from him now because he can hear so well.

Jason states... 

  • Jason stated that the barriers that DRS helped him overcome were “getting my 1st pair of hearing aids ever.”

  • “I am a hard worker, but I just couldn’t hear anything. I am lucky to have an employer that is willing to work with me and my hearing problems so that I could get my hearing aids and I am very grateful to DRS for helping me find what was keeping me from doing my best on the job.”

  • “I appreciate the help. It’s good that there is help out there for people who need it.”