Second of three parts …
By Nancy Miller
I met Darick Stark back in 2008 when he joined the cleaning crew here at ADEC’s Administration Building in Bristol. He’d come in at 5 p.m. to clean my office, greeting me with a smile and the question, “How’re you doing?” He’d tell me about his day, and I’d tell him about mine. He lived with his parents then, but hung out often with friends. He liked music, especially guitar. He hoped to get more hours and a better-paying job than the one he had, although he wasn’t complaining because he was just happy to be working.
Darick graduated from Central High School in 2006 with a Certificate of Completion, missing a diploma by only a 2-point margin on the ISTEP. Diagnosed first as moderately mentally handicapped, he started out in special education, “but I got myself out of that and into regular classes,” he told me. His mom, Christine, said they had to fight every step of the way, first to get the “label” changed to mildly mentally handicapped and then finally to get him enrolled in general education classes in high school. Darick did well in math, earning a B in algebra, but not so well in English. “He has trouble retaining what he’s learned,” his mother explained. “I was so proud of him. He worked so hard, going to night school to finish.”
After high school, Darick tried to find a steady job on his own in fast food service, then retail, then manufacturing, but he didn’t last more than a few weeks at any of them. Once, he thinks, because of a seizure on the job. Other times because of attendance and tardiness. “My alarm didn’t go off,” he said. In 2008, his Vocational Rehabilitation counselor referred him to ADEC’s Employment Services program, where he received job coaching and job placement.
And that’s how he ended up cleaning my office at 5 p.m. on weekdays for about two years. Darick moved from my building to clean offices at Work One in Elkhart, still working for ADEC, but getting more hours and with them, more pay. I didn’t see him as often, so we lost touch.
Then one afternoon I heard the familiar, “How’re you doing?” and looked up to see him standing in my office doorway.
“Hey, Darick, I’m good, how are you?”
“I’m getting married,” he said, grinning.
Story continues tomorrow …