2007 October - Career Fuel2007 October - Career Fuel

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Issue:  October 2007
In This Issue:



It’s Disability Employment Awareness Month!
“I’m a Perfect Example that You Can Overcome Barriers”
Bright Eyes, Big Ambition
All Booked Up!
Resource Corner

It’s Disability Employment Awareness Month!

Throughout October, the state of New Jersey is holding events to raise awareness about the challenges and opportunities related to people with disabilities in the workforce. The 2007 Governor's Conference on Employment for People with Disabilities, known as "DiscoverAbility" was held at the New Brunswick Hyatt on October 11. Workshops and breakout sessions helped to educate employers and consumers about state and federal employment and anti-discrimination laws that protect rights and individuals with disabilities, offered advice on transitioning from high school into education and employment and preparing for careers.
        The state is also participating in Disability Mentoring Day on October 17. Through partnerships with organizations like Allies, Inc., students with disabilities will enjoy a day of career exploration and mentoring at companies around New Jersey. The Mercer County One Stop Career Center will play host to a group of students who will tour the center and learn about various jobs. Check the "Resources" section at the end of this newsletter to learn how you can find out more.
        Many of the events during Disability Employment Awareness Month are sponsored by the state's Vocational Rehabilitation Services, a division of the New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development. In operation for more than 80 years, Voc Rehab, as it's known, provides services that enable all individuals with disabilities to find jobs or keep their existing jobs, with some special efforts on the transitioning youth. "We are always involved with schools and students transitioning from being a student with a disability to being someone who is participating in adult services," explains Brian Fitzgibbons, the division's assistant director. "We work with people who have been injured on the job and people who have somehow had a traumatic disability occur and then the whole situation changes. We work to retrain them." Any physical or mental impairment that is a substantial impediment to employment may qualify an individual for vocational rehabilitation services.
        Students within two years of graduation or exit from a school system who have a defined disability should call the nearest local Voc Rehab office to speak to a rehabilitation counselor. Each school has an assigned rehabilitation counselor who works with that school's students. Ultimately, when the student is ready, the rehab counselor and the student will develop an Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE). This plan describes the services the student and the rehabilitation counselor believe are necessary to get and keep a job. Says Fitzgibbons: "We're leveling the playing field for people with disabilities to participate in the workforce."

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“I’m a Perfect Example that You Can Overcome Barriers”

      Daniel Jara has had some experience adjusting to transitions in his life. When he was 14, he and his family moved to Paterson, N.J. from Lima, Peru. By the time he graduated from Paterson's Eastside High School in 1969, he was beginning to experience medical problems that affected his nervous system. Doctors feared he might have Polio. In 1984, his condition was diagnosed as Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a genetic motor neuron disease affecting the part of the nervous system that controls voluntary muscle movement. No longer able to walk, Daniel was confined to a power wheelchair for mobility.
       In his 19-year career Daniel, who graduated from Rutgers University with a bachelor's degree in accounting and economics and a master's degree in finance, has become a familiar face in the New Jersey business community. Since 1977 he has operated the Rimac Agency, an insurance, Hispanic market and international trade consulting firm, and he is the founding president of the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, a network of local Hispanic chambers representing over 50,000 Hispanic businesses in the New Jersey and Philadelphia area. Just recently, he was named the recipient of the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Northern New Jersey's 2007 Robert Ross Personal Achievement Award for New Jersey.
      In Daniel's case you might say, ‘Disability? What disability?' "I don't see myself as ‘disabled;' I don't use that word," says Daniel. "Sometimes people think that means you're not able to do something. That's why people now use ‘physically challenged,' which is more appropriate."
      Daniel's best advice to anyone who might be facing mental or physical challenges is to persevere-and go to school. "You need to look at this more like a challenge than anything else. It's a lot easier to say, ‘I give up.' That's a cop out as far as I'm concerned," says Daniel. "I'm a perfect example that you can overcome barriers. I overcome barriers every day from the time I get up in the morning. Education is the most important thing because when you're suffering a disability, you need more resources just to get by. And if you want to go further than that, you need even more."

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Bright Eyes, Big Ambition

 Where were you on July 21, 2007? If you're like many teens (and book lovers of all ages like Kristen Witucki) then you had your nose buried in the crisp, new pages of J.K. Rowling's seventh and final tale of Hogwarts and wizardry, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which was officially released that day. Harry's adventures have helped countless young readers discover what it's like to dive into a delicious, rich book and come out the other end feeling as satisfied as if they had just eaten an amazing meal.
       "I'm actually not filling out applications for any more degrees right now," jokes Kristen, who's hoping to soon launch a career teaching writing and writing her own fiction. Meanwhile, she is working part-time at Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic (RFB&D) in Princeton, a national nonprofit organization that produces educational materials for students with disabilities, like visual impairment.
       Kristen, 26, has been blind since birth. She has relied on the support of friends and family, organizations like RFB&D, and especially her own curiosity for the world and a deep love of reading and learning to embrace life and its challenges. Now, as she's poised to begin her own career, she understands what it takes to navigate the process. "Think really hard about what you want to do and how you are going to get there," urges Kristen. "Know what concrete things you have to do and what adjustments you have to make because of the disability. Don't be scared if you decide to change your course. A lot of workers in vocational rehab say to think about what goal you want to achieve and then work toward that goal. If you change the goal on them they say, ‘What did you do that for?' People with disabilities have the same right to change the goal as people without disabilities. But if you decide to change, you need to think about your next steps."

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All Booked Up!

 Where were you on July 21, 2007? If you're like many teens (and book lovers of all ages like Kristen Witucki) then you had your nose buried in the crisp, new pages of J.K. Rowling's seventh and final tale of Hogwarts and wizardry, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which was officially released that day. Harry's adventures have helped countless young readers discover what it's like to dive into a delicious, rich book and come out the other end feeling as satisfied as if they had just eaten an amazing meal.
        But what happens after you wipe the crumbs from the corners of your mouth? Do you prop the book on a shelf and go back to reruns of 90210 and The OC? Great books can be your constant companions if you let them.
        Need a little motivation? Then why not start a book club? That's what a group of 10 students from Brick Township High School did in February 2006. With the help of school librarians, Marianne Kerrigan and Cecilia Ruesegger, the students started "Booked on Wednesday," a monthly book club and discussion group. Here are a few great reasons to get started:

  • You Want to Read What? Book clubs usually choose one book that the entire group reads between meetings and then comes together to discuss. That means you will probably end up reading books that aren't your first choice. A book club exposes you to different types of books and helps you understand their appeal by listening to what the group has to say. You learn to tolerate others' choices and opinions-and agree to disagree.
  • Think Before You Speak. Maybe Mom and Dad have already suggested that you think before you speak. Well, in a book club you have no choice. As you're reading-or maybe after you've finished, you need to get analytical. In other words, really think critically about what you've read and figure out your true feelings about the book. Some books even come already equipped with a list of discussion questions and an interview with the author.
  • Express Yourself! It can be a real challenge to get up in front of a group and express your opinion. Book clubs help to show you that your opinion matters-and that not everyone is always on the same page, so to speak. Find the words to defend your book choice or tell everyone why you hated it. It's OK.

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Resource Corner

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