For Jordan Johnson, her career path started during Summer Youth Initiative, when she worked for Michigan Community Services Inc., or MCSI. There, she supported the agency’s day and respite care programs serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“I loved the work and the environment,” says Johnson, who graduated from Genesee Early College in 2015. “I thought, ‘This is good soil – this is great ground to plant myself.’”
And that’s exactly what she did. She worked for MCSI for another four summers or so. Then, as she worked on her degree in psychology from the University of Michigan – Flint, she got a job as a behavioral interventionist working for Carman Ainsworth Community Schools. For five years, she helped teach students how to deal with their emotions, mindfulness and conflict resolutions.
It’s there that she learned about her present employer, the Disability Network, which is a nonprofit that partners with people with disabilities so they can live as independently in the community as possible.
You serve as a youth program coordinator for TDN. What does that entail?
I work with youth and young adults who have disabilities such as, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism and ADHD. We create curriculum and lesson plans that teach these students how to live independently. We cover how to get a job after school, how to practice good hygiene and how to advocate for yourself and talk about your disability so the community has a better idea of how to accommodate you.
How do you think 10th grade Jordan would feel about where you landed?
She would be really excited to see how all of my steps lined up to each other. My experience at MCSI helped create that vision for me and gave me that experience to work with the students who I work with now. It really did come full circle. Had it not been for TeenQuest and SYI, I wouldn’t have even known what MCSI was. That’s a huge blessing.
What do you remember from TeenQuest?
There’s one thing that really stuck with me. It was somewhat traumatizing (laughs) but important. And that was eye contact. They made us stand in front of someone we didn’t know and peer into their eyes. It really taught me the importance of having self-confidence and knowing how to speak with someone with my head up.
What does a typical day look like for you now?
During the school year, we partner with different schools on a work readiness program that we offer with Biggby Coffee. We teach them about things like communication and time management. And then Biggby Coffee comes in and does interviews. They actually hired about 9 or 10 students through the program!
Why is it important to offer this type of opportunity for such a specific audience?
Our society puts a lot of limitations on people with disabilities and they tend to internalize those limitations. We want to teach these students and the community that there are no limitations. You might make the coffee. You might own the coffee shop one day. It’s okay to say, “Here are my disabilities, and here are some accommodations that will help me do this work.”
What are you working on right now?
Right now, we’re doing youth summer retreats. We actually have some openings for Experience Employment, which runs from July 12-21. Students will get to experience a different day on the job everyday Tuesday through Thursday, both weeks. The only requirement is that participants should identify as having a disability and should have an open case with Michigan Rehabilitation Services. To learn more, contact Meg at email@example.com.
TeenQuest and Summer Youth Initiative are made possible through the generous support of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.