“People will always tell you, ‘You can’t do it.’ I learned that the hard way, but if you put your mind to it, you can do anything. I want my future employers to know I can accomplish any task they put in front of me.”
Like most 22-year-olds, Katie has graduated from a college program, is living independently, and spends most days at work, but this life didn’t always seem possible. As a child, Katie entered foster care, where her intellectual disability created a rift between her and her foster parents. At 20, she enrolled in Winthrop Think College, a post-secondary program for young adults with disabilities. As she approached graduation, she realized she had no transportation, no job, and her current housing situation was no longer an option. Katie was facing the harsh reality of youth homelessness, and she was told her only options were a shelter or group home.
Then Katie got connected with Able South Carolina, who worked with Katie on setting goals, finding employment opportunities, and building professionalism. She also received assistance building a healthy dose of disability pride and researching independent living options. “No one had ever explained my disability to me; I never understood what exactly that meant,” says Katie, “Thanks to the support from Able I understand now and am able to advocate for myself.”
Before long, Katie had a part-time job in Rock Hill and was creating a budget to reach her goals. She found an apartment complex in West Columbia that assists former foster children with their transition into independent living.
Without a car, she was limited to employers within walking distance, but she wasn’t going to let that hold her back. Just three weeks after beginning her search, Katie was offered a position working 30-35 hours a week, which was exactly what she needed to maintain her apartment and build her savings.
“I haven’t always had great employers. At one job they kept me in the lowest position cleaning tables and didn’t see any potential in me because of my disability,” says Katie. “People will always tell you, ‘You can’t do it.’ I learned that the hard way, but if you put your mind to it, you can do anything. I want my future employers to know I can accomplish any task they put in front of me.”
Katie is currently working on her transportation goals and hopes that by next year she’ll have a driver’s license. In the meantime, she’s exploring other options such as DART, Uber, and Lyft to get to and from work and social gatherings.
In just a matter of months, Katie went from facing homelessness and unemployment to living independently and being financially self-sufficient.
Story and photo credit to: Hire Me South Carolina