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True Colors: A Story of Career Success
Co-Authors: Michael McManmon, Ed.D, Brenda Brown, MSW And True Rafferty
True is a handsome young man who has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. He is extremely charming, polite and friendly with anyone he encounters. True came to CIP with the desire to become a UPS delivery person. He had a fascination with inventory systems and delivery services. True wanted a job working in this field so he could help people "get what they needed".
When the opportunity arose, True accepted an internship at the Bradley Farm in Lanesboro, Massachusetts to assist the farm staff and learn pre-employment skills. True met with his career counselor and coach at CIP to identify what was important for him to learn.
During the first year of his internship, True worked two mornings a week performing a variety of tasks including seeding trays, planting seedlings, weeding, irrigation, weeding, propagation of succulents, feeding chickens, weeding, and collecting eggs.
Although True completed these tasks sufficiently, he ultimately wanted to work in the farm's store located on the property. During the second semester of his internship, True was allocated time to work in the store doing inventory and learning to operate the cash register. After a couple of months, the owner made an agreement with True. If he could learn public transportation or get a vehicle, he would be hired full time to work in the store during the next season.
True set out to take the necessary steps to make his dream come true. He obtained his driver's license and his parents helped him purchase a car so he could drive to his job at the farm. He needed to learn the route with his career coach and practice a number of times with and without assistance to increase his confidence in driving.
True traveled over thirty minutes in each direction to get to work. He always arrived on time to open the store in the early morning hours. On the first day of the new season, he was given an IPad and asked to put all of the store's products into categories, price them and put them on the store register. He was able to accomplish these tasks with minor assistance.
True was taught how to take credit card transactions and in one week, he was capable of handling all customer transactions. He was taught how to balance the sales each day and complete forms to account for the sales of the day.
Areas where True received assistance:
- In order to help True with social interactions with customers, his employer put a sign in front of him at the register, reminding him to smile and talk to customers. He mastered this skill in a short period of time.
To keep busy during downtime, he was given a list of things he could do when there weren't any customers in the store. His tasks included watering plants, sweeping, organizing, trash, and making coffee.
Although True was excellent at completing assignments that had clear instructions, he could become flustered if a situation arose that was not fully explained. To resolve this issue, he was given a list of phone numbers to text or call. This was helpful, since it's not possible to plan for every life situation.
- True also needed to learn how to handle requests for time off and anticipate holidays when he may have to work. This was a learning process for him. True needed to learn that work commitments came before social activities. This was a challenge for him.
True steadily improved his skill levels and completed the entire season with only minor problems. His self-esteem and confidence grew each day. With every challenge or setback, he learned to problem solve and grew in maturity.
After completing the season and dedicating his days to a full-time position working both weekdays and weekends, True was able to procure a full-time job at an organic market in the local area. He chose to stay in the area and not to return to his hometown with his parents and siblings. He was ready to begin his adult life by living independently, working and become self-sufficient.
CIP Career Coach Brenda Brown interviewed True about his recent success:
Brenda: What did you learn from your internship at Bradley Farm?
True: I learned that getting your hands dirty can be a lot of fun. It's also a big part of life as well. I learned that it's important to keep trying and show up every day even if you don't like something at first. I learned to ask for help. I learned to try new things and I was pleasantly surprised.
Brenda: How did you learn those lessons about life? How did this experience help prepare you for the next job you had or future ones?
True: Well, I thought about a job sitting behind a desk day after day and realized that is not what I wanted. Each day step by step I kept coming back and I realized the good experiences I was having. At first, I wanted to work for UPS as a delivery driver, but over time I learned about other areas I was interested in. I learned that I like lots of different things. I like working with people. I was surprised how many things I like to do at work.
Brenda: Do you have any advice for other students?
True: If there is anything I can say to any of the students it is keep working hard and don't be afraid to try new things. You never know what you will like or not like unless you give it a try.
Brenda: What are your plans for the future?
True: I'm going to Georgia Tech in the Fall for a program in computers. I'm excited to start my new adventure.
True is a TRUE success story. When he has free time, he visits with alumni, spends time at local libraries and coffee shops and volunteers at organizations. He is an excellent member of the community who contributes his skills, joy, and kindness to the world. We are fortunate to have worked beside True through part of his wonderful journey of life.
Michael P. McManmon Ed.D.
Founder College Internship Program (CIP)
Brenda Brown, MSW
True Rafferty, CIP Alumnus
CIP (College Internship Program) is a national transition program for young adults with autism and learning differences, serving students at five locations nationwide.
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