The Future’s So Bright

DSC_0068Isaac is a charming, polite, talkative senior in high school who is excited about his future. He is looking forward with much anticipation to his upcoming 18th birthday and to finding a job in the community. After a rocky adjustment to life in high school a couple of years ago, Isaac has since recognized and embraced his natural ability to be a leader and has taken the initiative to grow more independent.

This past summer, Isaac worked on both the Janitorial Crew and the Landscape Crew at Boone County Family Resources. He says he learned a lot about working together with his fellow employees and really enjoyed learning about gardening through the Landscape Crew. “That was my first time gardening,” says Isaac. “I had never done that before. And even though it was hot some days, it was fun and I learned a lot.”

Also this summer, BCFR funded Isaac to participate in the Missouri Youth Leadership Forum sponsored by Services for Independent Living and the Governor’s Council on Disability. This career leadership training program selects high school students with disabilities who show leadership potential through a statewide competitive selection process. Students focus on learning and applying leadership principles, building independent living skills and setting career goals. “It was held at MU and we stayed in the dorms on campus,” says Isaac. “We took a trip down to the Capitol and listened to different speakers. My favorite part was the talent show. I did my comedy act for the show.”

What Isaac is most excited about is being selected to participate in the Seamless Transition through Enhanced Partnership (STEP) Program. The STEP program, a partnership between Columbia Public Schools (CPS), Alternative Community Training (ACT), Vocational Rehabilitation, Boone Hospital Center, Boone County Family Resources (BCFR), and Missouri Department of Mental Health Central Missouri Regional Office, is designed to improve employment outcomes for youth with developmental disabilities. Isaac will spend his senior year in high school learning on-the-job skills while working as a paid intern at Boone Hospital Center. At the time of the interview, Isaac had just received his job assignment – he will be working in Patient Care by helping to re-stock supplies in patient rooms and keeping rooms clean. “I’ve learned so much already in the STEP program,” says Isaac. “I am excited to get started on my job at the hospital. Hopefully, it will help me get a job in the community.”

“Isaac has shown great strides in using his leadership skills with what he does best, which is talking to people,” says Rachel Stocker, Support Coordinator at BCFR. “Isaac is thoughtful toward others and is eager to learn skills that will better himself.” Through his time in the STEP Program, Isaac says that some of his fellow classmates have told him he would make a good counselor. “I can share some of the things I’ve learned to help out others,” he says. “I think I would be good at that.”

Isaac’s leadership skills can also be attributed to his years of participation in Special Olympics sports where he has played baseball, basketball, bowling, and track and field. He is also part of Tiger Buddies, an organization started on the MU campus which pairs a college student with a person with a disability to develop friendships and connections in the community. Isaac is a member of two different teen church groups at both The Crossing and the Newman Center and is an avid sports fan. “When NASCAR is on, he is glued to the TV,” says Janet, Isaac’s mom. “He also loves football – high school, college, NFL – he loves it all.” Most recently, Isaac saved up his own money to purchase a drum kit and has been taking drum lessons. “I love to play the drums,” says Isaac. “Maybe I’ll be in a band someday.”

Whether he joins a rock band or becomes a counselor, one thing is for certain, Isaac is definitely well on his way to a bright future.