We had the opportunity to welcome Rebecca May to our Bemidji division as Program Specialist in September.
Possessing over 20 years experience in various social work and community support programs, Rebecca infuses her role with a passion and dedication to helping others with disabilities overcome the barriers they are facing and find their own pathway towards success.
Joining a division undergoing some big changes to program offerings, Rebecca plays a crucial role in steering program staff and structure through the brackish waters of transition.
“We had a major change in program at the end of September when we closed the long-running enclave site at Havenwood Care Center,” Rebecca said. This was a proactive decision driven primarily by upcoming state policy changes that take effect in 2020.
Several individuals who were affected by the enclave closure have been successfully placed within the community, with others continuing in their job searches as new work sites are being actively developed.
A new service ODC is offering to area youth in Bemidji is Pre-ETS, or Pre-Employment Transition Services. This program is offered to high school students who are identified as having a disability or special need and are receiving services through Vocational Rehab.
In addition to this service, students who are identified as being potentially eligible for pre-ETS are also being referred for services, in an effort to cast a wider net and reach out to those individuals who might otherwise slip through the cracks. This can include anyone who has a current IEP or 504 Plan in place at the school.
Rebecca explains: “The idea is to help these students start planning ahead and getting everything set up for them to join the workforce and start thinking about plans for post-secondary education.
“We are very excited to see how this program unfolds and if it will help the younger generation gain access to the tools they need for success.”
As a parent of a child with a disability, she supported her daughter in her efforts to see past the limitations that others tried to impose on her.
“I was told my daughter would never learn to read beyond a 6th grade level—she is now in college at Concordia and carried a 19-credit class load her first term,” Rebecca said. “When we are given the tools and the opportunities to demonstrate our gifts, every single one of us can shine, in our own way.”
Initiatives she would like to focus on in 2020 include the development of a strategic plan for Bemidji division in line with the mission of ODC.
“We are focused on moving out of providing long-term, ongoing job coaching and into becoming the experts on jobsite development,” Rebecca said, adding that the goal is to assist in community placement until a natural support system is developed to maximize the long-term success of the individual.
Increasing public awareness of working alongside populations of people with various disabilities and vocational needs is another goal she is dedicated to advancing in 2020.
“I would like to get out to talk to more businesses and link our successful partners with them, so that they can hear about the benefits of hiring and working with our people from other business owners firsthand,” she said.