By Steve Germani
What do you want to be when you grow up?
My seven year old son is already being challenged with this question at school. If he were COMPLETELY honest, I’m pretty sure he’d confess his desire to become a Jedi Knight. Even at the age of seven, he already understands that becoming a Jedi Knight isn’t an acceptable answer to adults. So, to effectively accommodate the expectations of adults, he says he wants to be a nurse (his mom and grandma are both nurses). While he’s clearly too young to really know what he wants to be when he gets older, I appreciate the intent of encouraging our youth to dream about their future; to begin reflecting on who they are, what inspires them, and what they want to do with their lives.
Asking our youth this question at such a young age is so important, in part, because we truly wrap our identity and self worth in how we “earn” a living. There are dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, of variables included in the equation for personal happiness and fulfillment. Few variables are as impactful or important as how we make sense of our value to society. How we make a contribution to our community. I would argue that having an opportunity to contribute, to find meaning and purpose in how a day is spent, is a basic human need.
ADEC staff work incredibly hard to ensure our clients have opportunities to experience a meaningful day. Whether it’s in one of our six Day Services programs, our industrial program in Elkhart where we perform a variety of packaging and assembly jobs for local businesses, or in our Employment Services program in Elkhart and South Bend where we assist clients in finding employment in the community, we are always actively pursuing ways to satisfy our clients’ need to contribute. It is truly a core value of ours to ensure ADEC clients find dignity and meaning in contributing to our community.
In 2012, clients placed in community employment with the assistance of ADEC Employment Services worked, on average, 25 hours per week. This is 20% higher than the statewide average for the number of hours worked by an adult with a disability. We are very proud of this accomplishment. However, the harsh reality is that 3 out of 4 people with a disability in our community remain unemployed. Most of these individuals want nothing more than an opportunity to contribute. We’re hoping the 26 Miles for 26 Jobs campaign makes a difference and carves out a few more opportunities in the coming year for our clients than, otherwise, would’ve been available.
Here is a video created by The Arc of Indiana about an adult with a disability in West Lafayette who found his dream job. It’s not an ADEC client. It doesn’t take place in our community. However, this story captures the impact a job can have on the life of an individual experiencing life with a disability, as well as his family, friends and co-workers.