VR3: Making a Difference
VR3  Ready...Reliable...Results July 2014

REACHing for success

“Without my counselor and other VR staff, I don’t know where I would be,” states William Farrior, SCVRD client.

William is excited because he graduated in May from the REACH (Realizing Educational and Career Hopes) Program at the College of Charleston.

William, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome in the 8th grade and became a client of VR in 2010 as part of the High School/High Tech program, had only dreamed of becoming a College of Charleston student.

During his interview at the College of Charleston, William toured the campus with Edith Cusack, the Academic Program Director.

“When we got to the library, he stopped and put his hands to his chest,” she recalls. “He said, ‘I used to go in there and pretend I was a student because I knew I’d never be able to. I can’t believe this dream might be coming true.’”

Cusack thought about that event during William’s four years and how he was now spending time in that library “studying and researching. And his dreams are coming true because of the REACH Program and his hard work.”

The REACH Program at the College of Charleston is a four-year certificate program providing students with intellectual or cognitive disabilities a complete college experience. Along with four similar programs across the state, the REACH Program allows students to explore and realize both their intellectual and personal potential.

“After I met with William I knew he would strive to be successful in everything he puts his mind toward,” says Kim Smith, Charleston VR Counselor. “It doesn’t surprise me that he ended up as one of the first graduates of the REACH program.”

While attending the College of Charleston William wore many hats.

“He served as the mascot, a Residential Aide, and a mentor for troubled youth,” explains Smith.

William also goes out of his way to act as an advocate for others with intellectual disabilities. In February, Senator Tim Scott introduced him to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (HELP) in Washington, DC. William spoke as an advocate for students with disabilities in a full committee hearing. The discussion included students with various disabilities and administrators from several universities who were identified as experts in their areas and asked to provide input into the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

“He doesn’t mind speaking out for what he believes,” says Smith.  “His main focus is to help youth overcome hurdles and become successful.”

William has also served as a motivational speaker for the Charleston Area’s Summer Institute for Transition Students.

“My time at the College of Charleston has been the best years of my life,” says William.  “It gave me the confidence to know I can find a career where I can make a difference.”

Recently William had the tricky task of choosing between three job offers. As a new employee of the Carolina Youth Development Center, William is currently in North Carolina training to become a mentor for troubled youth.

“I am so pleased for what Vocational Rehabilitation has done to assist me to obtain the skills I have so far,” says William.

William is not the only VR client to complete the REACH program. Brian Porterfield is another recent graduate.

“Brian is making great strides to become successful in the Hospitality and Tourism field,” says Smith, who is also Brian’s counselor.

“In addition to the REACH program, Brian has completed volunteer and internship experiences,” explains Smith.  “He is excited and preparing for interviews with local hotels.”

Smith also helped secure internships for William and Brian during the summer that complemented the internships and work they did at school.

The more experience students have on internships the greater their ability is to generalize their skills.

“The sky is the limit,” says Brian.

In addition to the College of Charleston, the University of South Carolina, Coastal Carolina, Winthrop, and Clemson University offer programs similar to REACH, where students are able to experience college life through inclusive participation in academic, social skill building, independent living activities, and career development.

Get more information about William Farrior and the college programs.

View the Senate HELP committee discussion.

Around the state

Governor’s Committee Winners

The SC Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities works with mayors’ committees and state and local agencies to bring greater public awareness to the many talents and qualifications of workers with disabilities and their positive impact on the workforce and our state’s economy.

Each year a number of South Carolina businesses are recognized for their exemplary practices in hiring people with disabilities and actively promoting disability awareness and workforce opportunities in the business community.

Small Employer of the Year Award

N’Jeri DeShazer (right) of LC Industries in Columbia accepts Small Employer of the Year award from Cali Sandel of SC Commission for the Blind and the Columbia Mayor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.

LC Industries received the 2014 Small Employer of the Year Award.

LC Industries operates a store at Fort Jackson. Four of its ten employees are customer service representatives who are legally blind. The company accommodates these employees through the use of a talking cash register, video magnifiers/high contrast viewers for hard copy documents, and flexible work schedules to accommodate public transportation timetables.

Store manager Chris Graham works with staff members to maximize their skills and through a strong partnership with the South Carolina Commission for the Blind, identifies candidates for job openings at the store.

Medium Employer of the Year Award

Eunice Turner (right) of Pontiac Foods in Elgin accepts the Governor’s Committee Medium Employer of the Year award from Darline Graham of the SC Vocational Rehabilitation Department.

Pontiac Foods in Elgin received the 2014 Medium Employer of the Year Award.

For more than a decade Pontiac Foods has provided job training opportunities through its partnership with the SC Vocational Rehabilitation Department’s work training centers, where people with disabilities package food products.

SCVRD clients learn valuable job skills and work habits, receive counseling and address disability-related factors in preparation for moving on to competitive employment.

Pontiac Foods also hires SCVRD clients for full-time positions with the company, including three persons in the past year. The company’s representatives share their experiences with other businesses through appearances on panels at employment conferences.

Large Employer of the Year Award

Sylvia Evans (left) of Roper Hospital accepts Large Employer of the Year award from Kelly Sieling, representing the Summerville Mayor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.

Roper Hospital in Charleston received the 2014 Large Employer of the Year Award.

Roper Hospital has hired numerous persons with disabilities through its partnership with the Disabilities Board of Charleston, many of whom have been long-term employees. The hospital was recognized for fostering and rewarding success and promoting a positive working environment for people with disabilities.

Roper Hospital has also supported the Disabilities Board’s efforts to educate businesses about the benefits of hiring individuals with disabilities through participation in and food donations for a board event.

Distinguished Service Award

Gayel Wigfall (left) of BlueCross BlueShield of SC accepts the Distinguished Service Award from Mark Wade of the SC Vocational Rehabilitation Dept.

Gayel Wigfall received the 2014 Distinguished Service Award.

Gayel Wigfall is Human Resource Consultant in the area of Diversity and Human Capital Strategies for BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina in Columbia.

Wigfall has been a disability awareness advocate for many years, promoting employment opportunities and workplace accommodations at her company.

She was a founding member of the Vocational Rehabilitation Department’s (SCVRD) Business Partnership Network, which has grown to nearly 300 member businesses that promote awareness and the workplace strengths of people with disabilities.

She has served as a business advisor for SCVRD’s information technology training program for people with disabilities and for the Southeast region of the National Employment Team, which garners involvement of prominent companies in employment initiatives for people with disabilities.

Employment Achievement Award

Laquanda Porchea (left) of Columbia receives the Employment Achievement Award from DeCole Gallman of the SC Vocational Rehabilitation Dept. and the Spartanburg Mayor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.

Laquanda Porchea received the 2014 Employment Achievement Award.

Laquanda Porchea works as Lead Independent Living Specialist for Able South Carolina, a non-profit organization that provides an array of services to empower people with disabilities to lead active, self-determined lives. She works with people on adapting to their disabilities and becoming independent and provides training in job interview and search skills.

Porchea calls upon her own personal experiences in her work. As a child she had severe burns, loss of hands, and other serious injuries from a house fire, requiring many surgeries and a long rehabilitation process.

Her dreams of success were not deterred, and after graduating from Blacksburg High School she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees. As she prepared for and entered the job market she received services from the Vocational Rehabilitation Department’s Spartanburg office. SCVRD provided numerous equipment and work site modifications to assist her in performing her job duties as she joined the staff at Able SC in Columbia.

“When you have a disability, it can be a little harder to accomplish things, but nothing is impossible, and if you believe in yourself, you can do anything,” she says.

She has taken that message into her work at Able SC and as a guest speaker for the Spartanburg Mayor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities and at schools and club meetings.

Journalism Contest

Ethan Hayes, a senior at Dillon High School in Dillon, is the winner of the 2014 Journalism Contest.

Ethan Hayes, a senior at Dillon High School in Dillon, is the winner of the 2014 Journalism Contest.

Hayes wins a four-year scholarship for tuition and fees to a state-supported college or university.

Contestants addressed the theme, “Because We are EQUAL To the Task,” illustrating the impact and potential of people with disabilities in the workplace.

Hayes’ winning article told the compelling story of a man with autism who has excelled as a store employee for many years.

WLTX TV visits Orangeburg office

WLTX TV recently visited SCVRD’s Orangeburg office to film part of a story about one of Orangeburg’s partners who was chosen as employee of the year by the Department of Corrections: Lorri Bennett, Intensive Supervision Officer, Low Country Region, of the SC Department of Corrections Division of Young Offender Parole and Reentry Services (YOPRS).

Cynthia Parks, SCVRD counselor, works with Bennett and individuals 25 years and under who have been sentenced under the Youthful Offender Act (YOA).

Pictured: Cynthia Parks, SCVRD Counselor; April Gleaton, SCVRD client who is served by VR and the YOA program; Lorri Bennett, SC Department of Corrections; Steven Dial, WLTX Columbia; Wendy May, SCVRD Area Supervisor.

Rising senior prepares to take flight

Joyce Carter, a rising senior at Lancaster High School, is interested in aviation. She wants to become a pilot or a flight attendant, and she recently had the pleasure of touring McWhirter Field in Lancaster.

She explored the facility, viewed planes, and learned about various career options available at the airport. Later this summer, she will tour a major airport during the Lancaster Summer Institute and will be able to take flight with Paul Moses, Flight Instructor at McWhirter Field, on her own once she turns 18 in February.

Career Fair at USC-Lancaster

Eighty-four students, parents, school staff, and vendors attended a career fair at USC-Lancaster on May 8.  Students were able to explore training opportunities available after high school as well as learn about VR services and community resources.

Participating vendors included USC-Lancaster, York Technical College, Kenneth Schuler School of Cosmetology, LeGrand Institute of Cosmetology, Winthrop University, Universal Technical Institute (NASCAR), US Army, US National Guard, Construction Solutions, Department of Employment and Workforce, Catawba Mental Health, SC Works, Adult Education, SCVRD Palmetto Center, and the SCVRD Information Technology Training Center (ITTC).

The career fair was held by the Lancaster office transition team.

VR helps provide resources to federal contractors

SCVRD staff and business partners, including Jim Carino of North American Rescue of Greenville and Gayel Wigfall of BlueCross BlueShield of SC, participated in the NC/SC Industry Liaison Group (ILG) Annual Conference at the Columbia Conference Center on June 10.

Attendees, including HR Managers, Equal Employment Opportunity Managers and Compliance Managers from around the Carolinas, learned about the recent updates from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) regarding section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act. Information was provided to federal contractors on how to identify valuable resources for improving their recruitment, hiring and employment practices to comply with new regulations. VR staff and business partners shared best practices as an example for hiring well-matched candidates. With these changes federal contractors are increasing their outreach efforts to hire qualified candidates with disabilities.

The Industry Liaison Groups (ILGs) are an association of employers that are federal contractors in the states of North and South Carolina. Employers represent all sectors of the economy including business, industry, and education.

WayBack Whensday

In honor of National Public Service Recognition Week earlier in May, Florence area staff celebrated with an office lunch. In addition to the festivities, staff used this for their “Fun Committee’s” quarterly staff development activity. The theme for the activity was “WayBack Whensday”.

Staff dressed in clothing representing an era that they best related to and a contest was held for the best outfit. Sarah Cowan, Transition Counselor, was awarded a vinyl, long playing (LP) album for winning the contest.

Pictured (l to r): Xavier Sams, Counselor; Levette Segars, Counselor; Jan Psillos, Vocational ACE; Camilla Jones, Job Preparedness Instructor; Susan Courtney, Business Development Specialist; Sarah Cowan, Transition Counselor; Tameka Williams, Counselor; Lisa Downer, Job Coach.

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The Bryant Center
  The Bryant Center is accepting referrals for its two-week Summer Program for Transition Students. Students attending one of the scheduled sessions will participate in physical therapy or exercise; take part in simulated work experiences and learn independent living skills through occupational therapy; enhance leadership, teamwork and communication skills; explore careers and post-secondary interests; and engage in mock interviews and other job preparedness activities.
July 7-18 - Session 2: Summer Transition Program.
July 28-August 8 - Session 3: Summer Transition Program.
  All sessions meet 9 am-12 pm Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
  To refer a student, please fax a SCVR 219, SCVR 318, SCVR 318a (signed by the student and parent) and a Comprehensive Center referral form to Jennie Thomas at 864-949-6775.
  For more information,call 864-249-8030 or 888-322-9391
Comprehensive Evaluation Center (CEC)
  The CEC Summer Transition Evaluation Program for Students (STEPS) has offered three two-week sessions this summer. Referrals are being accepted. Students will participate in physical therapy/exercise, occupational therapy, nutrition counseling, career exploration, and work readiness activities.
July 7-18 - Session 3: STEPS.
  For more information, contact Stephen Heape 803-896-6040
July 22-23 - High School/High Tech Summer Institute.
August 1 - Transition Summer Institute.
  For more information, call 864-224-6391
July 9-11 - The SC Youth Leadership Forum (YLF), an annual career leadership program for high school juniors and seniors (or high school students between the ages of 17-21) with disabilities who have leadership aspirations in both their school and community, returns to Newberry College and the Wil Lou Gray Opportunity School. Students will enhance and grow their leadership, citizenship and social skills while taking part in activities enabling them to network, learn from each other and build lasting friendships. Get more information at ylf.scvrd.net.
July 24, 8am-4:30pm - Life with Brain Injury Statewide Conference at the Columbia Conference Center, 169 Laurelhurst Avenue, Columbia, SC. Get more information from the Brain Injury Association of South Carolina.

Enabling eligible South Carolinians with disabilities to prepare for, achieve and maintain competitive employment

VR3 is published by the South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Department (SCVRD), 1410 Boston Avenue, West Columbia, SC 29171.
The Public Information Office provides all news and information. News material may be reproduced with credit to VR3. In accordance with federal and state laws, SCVRD does not discriminate against any race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability in employment or in provision of services.