Friday Success Story: Employment dreams come true

Are you a dog person or a cat person? While most people say they are one or the other, Chris loves both. He dreamed of someday having a job where he could incorporate that love.

Over 21 years ago, Chris’ parents’ world was turned upside down. An ultrasound revealed that their baby might have Down syndrome, but the doctor couldn’t confirm it until Chris was born. From infancy to age 3, Noble of Indiana’s First Steps Early Intervention program provided occupational, developmental and speech therapies in the family’s Boone County home; therapies that were vital to helping Chris reach critical milestones in his early development.

Fast forward to Fall 2012 when Chris took part in Noble’s award-winning Project SEARCH program designed to assist students with disabilities make the transition from school to the workforce. Working with teachers, family members and school administrators, the program helps participating students gain marketable job skills by completing three 8-week internships. Chris and six other students from Zionsville High School started their mornings in a classroom at St.Vincent Carmel Hospital, learning how to prepare a resume and practicing job interview techniques. Then they fanned out across the hospital to work at their chosen internships with hospital supervisors serving as mentors.

After graduating from Project SEARCH in May 2013, Chris and his family began preparing for the next step: finding a job in the community. Again, Noble was there to help. Chris and Noble Employment Consultant Lindsey Vick spent weeks looking for just the right fit and finally found one at a pet boarding kennel in Zionsville.

Each day, Chris was at work before sunrise, making sure the boarded cats and dogs enjoyed their stay. In the “cattery”, he would gently take cats like Raspberry out of their cages then disinfect the cages, clean litter boxes and put fresh water in their bowls. After finishing up in the cattery, he swept and mopped hallways and the entrance lounge as Smartie,the kennel’s bird, quipped from her cage. Chris ended each shift by playing with smaller dogs in the outdoor exercise area. His beaming smile made it clear that Chris loved his job.

With this experience under his belt and on his resume, Chris is now ready for a new challenge. He is looking for another job that will tap into his love of animals while providing the opportunity to work at his own pace. Noble will again be at his side, helping him secure his employment dreams.

Children and adults with disabilities like Down syndrome have dreams like everyone else. In the last year alone, Noble of Indiana’s employment services helped over 860 adults attain their individual career goals, learn new skills, increase their independence and earn a combined income of more than $2.38 million.

Note: United Way of Central Indiana (UWCI) helps people learn more, earn more and lead safe and healthy lives. This mission includes support of 92 human service agencies whose programs contribute to one or more of UWCI’s four priorities of Education, Income, Health and Basic Needs. Noble of Indiana shares UWCI’s Income and Health priorities.

Since 1958, UWCI has invested nearly $14.7 million helping Noble of Indiana in its mission to create opportunities for people with disabilities to live meaningful lives. This funding includes grants of $1.2 million for facilities, maintenance and technology from funds contributed specifically for those purposes. The agency’s current Community Fund allocation is $452,795.