Bart Wilson working on a car with his manager, Eric

Bart Wilson Finds Work with Purpose with the Spokane Quick Lube Team

When you ask Bart Wilson about his new career at Spokane Quick Lube on the corner of Sprague and Adams in Spokane Valley, his enthusiasm is evident: “I am so happy about my new job!”
 
Bart first found his passion for cars while working at his father’s shop as a kid, and his enthusiasm only continued to grow, pushing him to complete the PACE automotive maintenance class at Spokane Falls Community College.
 
Now, at Spokane Quick Lube, Bart works with a dedicated automotive team that is committed to exceptional customer service. Mark London, Skils’kin’s Vice President of Marketing, decided to have the team work on his car while he interviewed and gathered photos for this story. Bart’s job was customized for a perfect fit. Bart is tasked with checking engine fluids, cleaning lights, and fixing chipped windows, and as Eric Gould, the manager of Spokane Quick Lube, explains, Bart fulfills these tasks with purpose and efficiency.
 
“The team utilizes and values Bart’s skills and enthusiasm,” Eric explained. “We have a diverse and customer-driven team, and we look forward to helping Bart expand his skills and participating in his growth.”
 
Congratulations, Bart, on your new career.
 
Special thanks to Sarah-Ann Trenn and Cory Mack, Bart’s staffing managers, for helping Bart find a meaningful career.

Image of Bonnie Sinclair

Bonnie Sinclair Receives Direct Support Professional of the Year Award at 2017 Governor’s Employer Awards

45 Years of Service – Thousands of Lives Changed

Skils’kin is proud to announce that Bonnie Sinclair, an Employment Services staffing manager at Skils’kin, has won the 2017 Direct Support Professional Award at the 25th Annual Washington State Governor’s Employer Awards.
 
Every year, the Governor’s Committee on Disability Issues and Employment hosts the Governor’s Employer Awards Program, where the committee recognizes those who empower individuals with disabilities and improve employment opportunities. The award that Bonnie received, the Direct Support Professional award, is a lifetime achievement award that recognizes exceptional professionals who provide direct support to individuals with disabilities; demonstrate state-of-the-art practices; and make meaningful, inclusive employment a reality.
 
Bonnie is well-deserving of this award because she is an outstanding direct support professional who leverages 45 years of person-centered industry experience and expertise to facilitate community integration and challenge individuals with disabilities to self-identify and pursue career goals, making meaningful, inclusive employment a reality for individuals with disabilities.
 
Bonnie came to Skils’kin in 1972 (then known as the Prevocational Training Center), where she performed quality assurance for the printing press. Bonnie trained people with disabilities on how to load the printing press, change the paper size, clean the machine, and print, bind, and drill books. She also oversaw silk screen printing, teaching individuals with disabilities how to shoot and develop pictures before they went to the press by burning plates, putting them onto the machine, and using opaque pens. Back when the Prevocational Training Center had a large contract with the Forestry Department, Bonnie also taught an individual with a disability to operate a high-speed copier in Colville.
 
While she worked at the Prevocational Training Center, Bonnie went to college at Eastern Washington University, where she got a degree in general studies with a minor in social work. She then began serving as the sole employee in the Employment Department, where she taught job readiness classes, a skill she implements continually to this day.
 

By creating opportunities to meaningfully engage and integrate with the community face-to-face, Bonnie shatters barriers to employment by exposing employers to the assets individuals with disabilities truly bring to the workplace.

 
From years of experienced success, Bonnie has developed a state-of-the-art person-centered job development strategy that brings clients out into the community, makes connections, and ultimately secures meaningful employment. Bonnie is a maverick who engages with the community to actively facilitate opportunities by connecting the work that needs to be done with a talented, but traditionally unrecognized, workforce of individuals with disabilities who can meet these needs. By creating opportunities to meaningfully engage and integrate with the community face-to-face, Bonnie shatters barriers to employment by exposing employers to the assets individuals with disabilities truly bring to the workplace.
 
An integral aspect of Bonnie’s state-of-the-art practice is letting individuals with disabilities self-identify their desired workplaces and careers. As Bonnie explains, far too often, the industry tries to find an individual a job, any job, that they overlook the importance of finding the right job for that specific individual. In order to facilitate meaningful employment, Bonnie ensures that the individual’s desires lead the job search. Individuals with disabilities often unjustly lack agency in their lives and are placed in whatever job opportunity arises, regardless of the individual’s fit with the work and culture. Bonnie refuses to do that. She continually strives forward with her clients until they find the right position together. Bonnie is adamant about creating spaces where individuals drive their own job search – and she stands by them to ensure their success every step of the way.
 

Bonnie gets to know her clients on a personal level to help them find truly meaningful employment.


 
Bonnie stresses to individuals-served that her role is to help them drive their job search and achieve truly meaningful employment that best meets their needs. To accomplish this success, Bonnie challenges her clients to reflect on and determine their career goals and tell her what they need in a workplace. Bonnie facilitates this process by developing a strong understanding of the individual served and creating opportunities for career exploration. When Bonnie first meets with a client for discovery, she digs deep to get to know the individual’s needs and desires, encouraging the client to honestly and critically examine his or her employment pursuits. Sometimes, individuals are adamant about not working in certain places, and Bonnie and the individual will figure out why together, collectively pushing towards a greater understanding of the client’s career goals. By challenging her clients with this scaffolded approach, Bonnie enables her clients to drive their search for employment, and she ensures that they only pursue positions that are in the client’s best interests.
 
Once Bonnie and the client have reached an understanding of the client’s goals, they explore potential careers together. Bonnie takes the individual out into the community and introduces them to employer contacts in the industries the individual is interested in. The employer tells them what they need, what the hours are like, the expectations and requirements for the position, and more. Sometimes, after career discovery, the individual realizes that that’s not the right kind of job for them, and Bonnie and the individual then use that information to keep pushing forward towards that right job. Other times, this career exploration solidifies the individual’s career goals, and Bonnie and the individual can push the job search even further with greater intensity and vigor.
 
Bonnie is also outstanding in her position because she stresses the importance of challenging individuals-served. From a lifetime of society telling them what is and isn’t possible, many individuals with disabilities often don’t realize their full potential. But Bonnie sees in individuals-served what they often fail to see in themselves: that they, like all individuals, have areas of expertise that they can leverage in the workplace to substantially contribute and drive business. And she challenges her clients until they recognize this too. For example, Bonnie once worked with a client who had a stroke – the results of which seemed insurmountable to the client. Bonnie had helped this individual find a potential employment opportunity as a dishwasher, but he doubted his ability to wash dishes even though he was interested. Bonnie pushed her client and challenged him to believe in his own strengths and ability, reassuring him that he could take on this position and thrive. As a result, this individual successfully gained employment as a dishwasher in a major hospital, where he now performs large-scale dishwashing. From Bonnie’s perspective, the more you challenge individuals, the more they will blossom and feel good about themselves and the work at hand, which empowers them to reach heights they previously never thought possible.
 
Bonnie also challenges her clients by urging them to not just rest-satisfied once they secure a job but to continue to work hard and reach upwards once they have a position. When her clients first get a job, Bonnie continues to mentor and explains that if they do well and continue to work hard and flex their skillset, there’s opportunity for advancement – it’s all up to them to strive for it. Bonnie challenges those she serves and instills in them that their success is indicative of further success – they can continually do better, and now that they’re starting out on a new path, they can seize even greater successes. And many of Bonnie’s clients do just that. Bonnie has placed individuals in entry-level positions and witnessed firsthand her clients’ abilities to advance into management and leadership roles.
 
Throughout this entire process, Bonnie serves as an advocate and creates positive change by attending to the overall well-being of the individuals she works with and helping them to stay positive and believe in themselves. Bonnie is adamant that her clients not be isolated, explaining how it can cause depression and lowered self-esteem. Outside of the job search, if Bonnie feels her clients are too isolated, she encourages them to get out into the community. Sometimes, Bonnie has clients who struggle with the transportation system and bus schedules, so Bonnie will meet them at the transit center and help them with transportation, riding the bus back with them until they are familiar with it. She also makes sure to see her clients at least once a week. Bonnie is adamant about the importance of having face to face conversations with her clients on a weekly basis, so they stay in high spirits, continually press upwards, and recognize that despite any setbacks, they’re still going forward with their search for the right job that creates a better quality of life. If an individual has barriers, has never had a job, and is constantly isolated, they can spiral downwards, but Bonnie keeps motivating and keeps pushing. She wants her clients to believe in themselves, and she keeps working with them until they do.
 

Bonnie makes inclusive employment a reality, and literally thousands of individuals with disabilities have experienced greater success and a better life because of her lifetime of service and achievement.

 
Bonnie finds purpose and fulfillment in her work not because of her lifetime of success, but because she is able to stand witness to the impactful change that results after she helps individuals with disabilities secure and maintain meaningful, inclusive employment. Because Bonnie has served in this industry for 45 years, she has had the unique opportunity to see both the immediate and the long-term impacts of her lifetime of service – impacts that drastically change the lives of individuals served. Individuals who, after securing inclusive employment, are finally able to fly across the state to visit friends in Seattle. Individuals who are able to go see a Broadway show for the first time in their life. Individuals who are able to go out to dinner with friends. Individuals who were able to buy a car and experience newfound independence. Individuals who have been able to go to college and continue to expand their skillset. Individuals who have been able to get married and start families. Individuals who are able to live their version of their best life – in large part thanks to Bonnie’s considerate, person-centered practice.
 
Bonnie draws upon 45 years of experience and success to create person-centered opportunities for meaningful community integration, and through this work, Bonnie helps individuals find the right job, which ultimately helps ensure meaningful employment and long-term success because individuals love what they do and are able to thrive as a result. Bonnie makes inclusive employment a reality, and literally thousands of individuals with disabilities have experienced greater success and a better life because of her lifetime of service and achievement.

Close up image of a lawnmower mowing grass

Skils’kin Grounds Crew at F.E. Warren Completes Nearly $150,000 in IDIQ Work

Last September, Skils’kin’s F.E. Warren grounds team in Cheyenne, Wyoming successfully completed ongoing IDIQ (indefinite delivery / indefinite quality) projects worth nearly $150,000. IDIQ work refers to additional work provided by the government outside of the original contract. Accomplishing this work in addition to the already established contractual work is no easy feat, but the F.E. Warren grounds team banded together to get the job done, bringing in a substantial amount of additional revenue in the process.
 
The work the F.E. Warren team accomplished is truly significant. As part of their IDIQ work, the team accomplished the following tasks over the past few months:

  • Pruned trees on the many F.E. Warren roads
  • Performed a full grounds renovation outside of building #210, including repair of the irrigation system, leveling the ground, laying brand new sod, replacing bark around trees with red rock, and additional mowing and hand watering
  • Placed parking blocks
  • Performed special mowing around the WAPA building
  • Seeded, added compost, and hand watered around the snow barn
  • Seeded, added compost, and hand watered around the lift station

 
This phenomenal work could not have been done without the F.E. Warren grounds crew’s ability to come together and work effortlessly day-in and day-out while completing both contractual and IDIQ work. This work also would not have been possible without the support of Donna Hays and Alicia Mulvihill, who did an outstanding job coordinating this IDIQ work for Skils’kin.
 
Congratulations to F.E. Warren grounds and the AbilityOne team! The work you do continues to make meaningful impacts.

Steve McBride standing in front of a brick wall

Steve McBride Brings Business-Centric Focus to Commercial Services

In late September, Steve McBride joined Skils’kin to lead the Commercial Service department as the Vice President of Commercial Services. This newly-created position emphasizes Skils’kin’s increased focus in sales and business development and marks the beginning of a new era for Skils’kin’s Commercial Services.

 

Steve is a fourth generation Spokane native and holds a bachelor’s degree in communications studies from Eastern Washington University and a certificate in sustainable building practices from Washington State University. He has extensive work experience in sales and operations, as well as a proven record of accomplishment in business development within a wide range of industries, including construction, medical, and hospitality fields. Steve has also started multiple companies throughout his career, and by all accounts, has a proven entrepreneurial spirit that is conducive to success.

 

“I’ve always had a passion for creating things,” Steve explains, “whether that be businesses or products. I want to know a little about everything, I have an inquisitive mind, and I’m driven to dive in and make successes happen.”

 

Steve’s ability to secure successes, create partnerships, and build businesses makes him the ideal candidate to fulfill the new VP position. Skils’kin hired Steve to grow the Commercial Services department by securing new lines of business while continuing to grow our core business partnerships. “We are in a growth-minded space” Steve explains. “We’re facing the community with a robust sales and marketing division, and we’re very customer-focused, quick, and responsive to needs – all while always looking for new opportunities.”

 

In addition to competing for new lines of business, Steve’s vision for Commercial Services includes the creation of new business partnerships that will expand the production, commercial cleaning, grounds, and kit packing services that the department currently offers. For example, Skils’kin makes thermocouplers that are an integral piece to Kaiser’s ability to make aluminum, and Steve envisions the department growing in its ability to provide similar first-rate production services. Steve is also eager to build the department’s commercial cleaning and grounds businesses and has plans to aggressively pursue new opportunities for kit packing.

 

“Kit packing happens all over the country,” Steve explains. “This business is competitive, but we have the people and resources to make a good looking product the right way every time, and because of Skils’kin’s robust QA process,” Steve adds, “we can confidently grow any of these business divisions or business lines.”

 

Commercial Services is poised for immense growth, and Steve is eager to lead the department to greater success. Steve adamantly believes that the department surpasses the competition not only because it promotes change and purpose, but because it promotes change and purpose in addition to the top-quality services it provides. And by continuing to provide exemplary services, and maintaining a business-centric focus, Steve sees the department establishing long-lasting partnerships within the community that creates the basis for true social change:

 

“I have great enthusiasm for the untapped possibilities in Commercial Services. The reason I took this job is because I believe in Skils’kin’s vision of becoming the place that shows companies how to provide services for adults with disabilities. Commercial Services can be a highlight of that vision because we’re in the community, we’re doing the work, and we’re doing the work with individuals with disabilities just as well and at any level with other companies that don’t employ the workforce we do. We’re competing at that highest level while preparing adults with disabilities for future careers in whatever field they want to be in. And we’re going to continue to compete on that top level, win the wins, and spread our name to the community. We’re not just a nonprofit that supports individuals with disabilities: we’re a business that provides exceptional care to our customers and provides top-quality services. We do a lot of amazing work – and we do it well. We go out and secure work on our price and service, but we keep these services with our customers, those lifelong customers who want to keep doing business with us and keep referring us, because they feel like they are part of the Skils’kin team, the Skils’kin mission. And we’re going to keep bringing more customers into this mission.”

 

The way forward for the employment of individuals with disabilities lies in competitive, business-driven services. With Steve McBride in command of Commercial Services, Skils’kin is leading the charge while looking boldly and confidently into a future that is ours to build.


Vlad Larkin Joins Wild Sage Restaurant

 

“I gave Vlad his first ever paycheck tonight. He lit up like a Christmas tree. It was pretty sweet. It meant a lot to him – and to me.” – Tom Sciortino, Owner of Wild Sage

 

After participating in Skils’kin’s Employment Services, Vlad Larkin, a first-generation immigrant, successfully earned employment as a dishwasher at Wild Sage Bistro in Spokane. This is Vlad’s first full-time, non-temporary employment opportunity.
 
In his new position, Vlad serves as a dishwasher and is responsible for ensuring the cleanliness of the restaurant’s utensils, plates, and equipment. As Vlad explains, he is responsible for “anything that needs to get picked up, cleaned, and put back where it’s supposed to go.” He describes the work as challenging but immensely gratifying: “It’s satisfying being a part of Wild Sage,” Vlad explained. “I’m never bored there – always busy.”
 
And Vlad’s hard work is making an impact. When asked about Vlad, Tom Sciortino, the owner of Wild Sage, said “I gave Vlad his first ever paycheck tonight. He lit up like a Christmas tree. It was pretty sweet. It meant a lot to him – and to me.”
 
Having a job for the first time, and having that first paycheck, means everything to Vlad. “Having a job changes other areas of my life,” Vlad explained. “It has helped me become an adult, and I’m becoming more responsible. Work is hard,” Vlad added, “but what you work for is what you earn. Not everyone gets that chance for employment, so I’m grateful for this opportunity. I want to stay where I am… I want to keep this job for a long time.”
 
 
Congratulations to Vlad and Cory Mack, Vlad’s Staffing Manager at Skils’kin, for their success.

Rising Above: CLS Participates in Courageous Kids Climbing Event

In late September, individuals served in Skils’kin’s Community Living Services (CLS) department once again had the opportunity to participate in a Courageous Kids Climbing event. At the event, volunteers, including Skils’kin Contract Administrator Megan Curran, provided the support, equipment, and instruction needed to empower individuals with disabilities to scale various climbing walls.

 

Skils’kin first became involved with Courageous Kids Climbing earlier this year when Megan, an avid climber, volunteered to belay at a climbing event and requested that Jeff Riechmann, the event coordinator, open up the event to the adults with disabilities in Skils’kin’s CLS program. Jeff agreed, and the event was a tremendous success, enabling individuals with disabilities from Skils’kin to experience something they would not have had the opportunity to experience otherwise.

 

The event this September at the Spokane Valley YMCA was yet another success, and individuals once again had the opportunity to prove their ability – both to themselves and the world around them. As Megan explains,

 

“I love these climbing events because climbing is a great way to redefine one’s abilities, mentally and physically. If we want to raise the bar for helping our customers lead fulfilling lives, then we need to continually seek new ways to help them discover their abilities. Climbing is one way to help us change the conversation.”

 

By scaling the climbing walls at the YMCA, the participants in the Courageous Kids Climbing event were able to overcome any perceived limitations about climbing and realize their potential – and show that potential to the world – in the process.

 

This event teaches us all about the power of collaboration, support, and courage; however, it also shows us the individual accomplishments that are possible when we have a supportive community behind us. Megan explained that it takes teamwork to help climbers with disabilities to the top of the wall, but the individual accomplishments that are able to emerge from that spark of support are what she finds most inspiring:

 

“It’s inspiring to see adaptive climbers find their own creative solutions to challenges on the wall. When I see one of our CLS climbers dig deep for the strength to make one more move, then I learn about the human potential to push past limits and reach goals.”

 

When supportive communities and individual determination work in tandem, there are no limitations. These climbing events show us all just what is possible when a community bands together and decides to make a difference in individuals’ lives. There is potential in us all, and when we have opportunities to reach for greater heights, we may surprise everyone when we show how high we can really go.
 

Courageous Kids Climbing will host their next climbing event on April 21, 2018 at Wild Walls Inc. in Spokane. Visit the Courageous Kids Climbing Facebook page for more information.
 

Image of a silhoutte on top of a mountain watching a sunset/sunrise

CEO Letter: October 2017

 

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experiences to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experiences.”
 
-Eleanor Roosevelt

 
Over the past few months, there has been a lot of discussion around Purpose and what it means to us individually and within our culture. I am so proud of the organization we have become in the last seven years that I have had the privilege to be CEO. In writing this letter, I have such a myriad of emotions that I am feeling. We are well poised in our Payee, Commercial Services and AbilityOne programs. Our Marketing team is creating videos for external customers that further opens doors for opportunities and is selling our brand and services. With these positives ahead of us, it is bittersweet to be saying goodbye to our Supported Living department. This department is full of life, personalities, energy, challenges and successes. I always looked forward to barbecues and events where I could mingle and visit on a more personal level with some of the most colorful and engaging individuals I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I remain confident that this is the right choice for our employees and those we serve. I know all involved will have additional opportunities that a larger organization can offer.
 
The above quote resonates with me as this is a time where I feel fervently that we all must reach out for new experiences that stretch us, teach us, and most importantly make us grow. To say I am energized about Skils’kin’s future would be an understatement. I am ready to reach out for new experiences and opportunities. However, I still have sentiments running through my mind on the departure of our Community Living Services team, so I won’t say goodbye, but I wish each of you associated with our Supported Living program a heartfelt “see you soon.”
 
Brian Behler's signature

Help Us Support WIOA

Skils’kin needs your help to help protect employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Please read the following statement from Skils’kin CEO Brian Behler and then follow the directions provided below to help preserve AbilityOne employment for individuals with disabilities across the nation.
 
Note: Comments must be sent in by September 20th.
 
 

Statement from CEO Brian Behler

If you have been part of our advocacy platform for any length of time, you are aware of the importance of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) regulations and what it means to our AbilityOne contracts. The U.S. Department of Education has announced that it will allow input on regulations that may be appropriate for repeal, replacement or modification until September 20th. Currently, we at Skils’kin are facing an uphill battle with the interpretation of some of the guidance and regulations that are outlined for Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA). Some of the language is indiscriminately disqualifying vocational rehabilitation (VR) job placements to Skils’kin based upon our participation in the congressionally-mandated AbilityOne program.
 
WIOA, which Skils’kin supports, is an important piece of legislation that received considerable bi-partisan support in Congress. Attaining competitive integrated employment is a worthy goal for all individuals with disabilities who receive vocational rehabilitation services under WIOA. However, the integrated criteria is based on an overly simplified and inaccurate understanding of what types of jobs are provided through the AbilityOne program. As a result, VR agencies are no longer placing individuals with disabilities into any AbilityOne Jobs, even though many of these jobs meet the definition of integrated employment.
 
A majority of our AbilityOne employees with disabilities work right alongside co-workers without disabilities and have the same interactions with customers and vendors as their counterparts without disabilities. These individuals perform the same work and are held to the same performance standards. Throughout the United States, nonprofit agencies such as ours provide training and employment opportunities for more than 115,000 individuals with disabilities including over 40,000 through the AbilityOne program.
 
Please take a moment and write a message or copy the prewritten letter below and paste it into the comments area of the following link: https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=ED-2017-OS-0074-0001. Remember to include your name at the end of the message. As mentioned previously, this is time sensitive as all comments must be received prior to September 20th. If you have questions, please feel free to contact myself at bbehler@skils-kin.org or Tami Dillon at tdillon@skils-kin.org. Thank you for your time and willingness to speak up for the choices in employment for individuals with disabilities.

 

Regards,

Brian Behler's signature

 

Brian Behler
President / CEO
P: 509.209.2431
C: 509.570.2828
F: 509.323.8987
 
 

Directions

Step 1: Copying and Pasting the Letter Addressed to Ms. Malawer

Copy and paste the letter addressed to Ms. Malawer (provided below) into the “Comment” field on the Regulations.gov page.

 

Step 2: Selecting a Category and Continuing

Select “Individual” from the “Category” drop-down menu. Once you have made your selection, click “Continue.”

 

Step 3: Reviewing Comment and Submitting

Review your comment, and then click the checkbox that says “I read and understand the statement above.” Then submit your comment by clicking “Submit.”

 

Step 4: Receiving Verification (Optional)

If you’d like a receipt of your comment sent to you, enter your email in the space provided and click “Email Receipt.”

 
 

Letter

Ms. Hilary Malawer
Assistant General Counsel, Office of the General Counsel
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Ave SW, Room 6E231
Washington DC 20202
 
Re: Docket ID: ED-2017-OS-0074
 
Dear Ms. Malawer:
 
This comment is in regards to regulations and sub-regulatory guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Education (DoEd), Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) for the purpose of implementing the integrated settings criteria under the definition of the competitive integrated employment in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). These regulations and guidance are having an unintentional but detrimental and job-killing impact for individuals with significant disabilities. Specifically, RSA’s guidance is indiscriminately disqualifying vocational rehabilitation job placements to certain nonprofit agencies (NPAs) based upon their participation in the congressionally-mandated U.S. AbilityOne Program.
 
Attaining competitive integrated employment is a worthy goal for all individuals with disabilities who receive vocational rehabilitation services under WIOA. The language in the integrated settings criteria promulgated by RSA restricts access to quality competitive integrated jobs for people with disabilities and is inconsistent with other parts of the regulation, the department’s longstanding practice and technical guidance. It is my understanding that the integrated location criteria in the final regulation is based on an overly simplistic and inaccurate understanding of the types of jobs that are provided through the AbilityOne program. As a result, many VR agencies have stopped placing individuals with disabilities into AbilityOne jobs. AbilityOne jobs are competitively integrated. Workers with disabilities have the same interactions with their co-workers, customers and vendors as their non-disabled counterparts. They also have the same opportunities for advancement as their co-workers without disabilities. They perform the same work and are held to the same performance standards.
 
Skils’kin is an NPA participating in the AbilityOne program and creates jobs in four states. Because referrals and placements from state vocational rehabilitation counselors have ceased, employment opportunities at Skils’kin are going unfilled. Deserving individuals with significant disabilities are denied these opportunities and the ability to be a vital part of our community. When there are so many individuals with disabilities looking for work, why would anyone limit their opportunities for growth, learning and advancement?
 
I am requesting that the DoEd immediately rescind the FAQ guidance (posted on DoEd’s website, https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/rsa/wioa.competitve-integrated-employment-faq.html) related to the definition of integrated settings and issue clarifying guidance that employment at community rehabilitation programs, including employment positions funded through the AbilityOne program, may be considered competitive integrated employment as long as it meets the criteria defined in RSA-TAC-06-01 and the WIOA (P.L. 113-128).
 
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on existing regulations that unnecessarily eliminate jobs or inhibit job creation.

Image of Hannah Dederick racing on a track

Unlimited Potential: Hannah Xue Jia Dederick’s Story

Jonathan Dederick first came to Skils’kin in 2015, and during his past two years as an employee, Jonathan has served in Community Access and as a job coach. Jonathan is passionate about empowering those he serves by creating opportunities for community integration, building relationships, and helping individuals find and maintain meaningful employment. While he didn’t come to Skils’kin with work experience where he directly assisted individuals with disabilities, he has unparalleled empathy and passion that drives his work – empathy and passion that are representative of the family environment that he grew up in.
 
When Jonathan was 11 years old, he and his family moved to Suzhou, China, where they lived for several years. While in China, Jonathan’s mom volunteered in an orphanage, where she developed a connection with Xue Jia, a one to two year old orphan girl with spina bifida known as “Princess.” During this time in China, families were only allowed to have one child by law, so many children who were born with disabilities or birth defects were seen as undesirable and abandoned. Xue Jia was one of those individuals who was abandoned at the steps of a hospital.
 
Volunteers, including Jonathan’s family, helped raise funds to enable Xua Jia to have surgery to fix her spina bifida; she had the operation, but it left her paralyzed from the waist down. After volunteering at the orphanage for a while, Jonathan’s parents decided to adopt Xue Jia. They went through the adoption process and adopted Xua Jia, changing her name to Hannah Xue Jia Dederick.
 
Jonathan, Hannah, and their family lived in China for a few more years before moving back to the United States and settling in Spokane. While Hannah was growing up, the family never viewed her through the lens of what she could or could not do. “We never thought of her disability,” Jonathan explained, “we treated her like any other of our brothers and sisters.”
 
Undoubtedly, Hannah grew up in an environment of acceptance, which has created a space for her to accomplish things that many thought never possible. In the past year, Hannah found her passion for parasports and started competing in wheelchair track, shocking everyone with her success. Hannah made it to the Nottwil 2017 World Para Athletics Junior Championships in Switzerland, where she won four gold medals and one silver and became the 6th ranked athlete in the world in her discipline (click here for full results). Hannah was born into a world that didn’t recognize her potential, but now that she has had opportunities to showcase her skillset, she has been able to show just how gifted she truly is.
 

Image of Hannah Dederick at baggage claim holding up her medals

Hannah holds up her medals while her father takes pictures in the background.


 
“Nobody saw it coming,” Jonathan explained. “In the past year or so, she got really into parasports. It was just sort of something she did – I don’t know how seriously she took it. But once she got involved with the Paralympics, she shocked everyone. She is sponsored by the Paralympics now, and her goal is set on making it to the Tokyo Olympics.”
 
“She has overcome a lot of barriers,” Jonathan added. “There are a lot of children who end up in orphanages. Everyone wanted that perfect child because they only had that one shot. There was just such a slim chance to be adopted, go to the United States, and make it to the Paralympics. It is just an amazing story.”
 
Hannah, like many other children in China, was left behind as a baby and abandoned because of perceived imperfections. Imperfections which, in reality, unjustly limit opportunity, especially when we realize that none of us are perfect, and “normal” is arbitrary, an abstraction based on idealized, nonexistent forms. By viewing Hannah, and all people, only in reference to this idealized norm, we overlook the potential in her and all people. There is great potential in all of us, but only some have the opportunities to reach that potential. Let’s change that. People need to get opportunities and then seize opportunities to push their limits, and in order to accomplish this, we need to recognize that everyone has something to offer.

Portrait of Michael Halbrook with a variety of colored circles in the background

Skils’kin Marketing Intern Launches Career as Graphic Designer

Skils’kin is proud to announce that Michael Halbrook, one of the first interns in Skils’kin’s marketing department, has successfully gained employment with Quick Business Resolutions, an internet marketing service provider in Spokane.
 
Earlier this year, Skils’kin’s marketing department launched an innovative new marketing internship that invites talented, promising media designers to compete for a job opportunity where they can gain valuable skills that will help them launch their career. Marketing designed the internship with the goal of challenging individuals to expand their graphic design and marketing skillset while helping the team build the Skils’kin brand. As Mark London, Skils’kin Director of Marketing, explains, “We wanted to build a working internship that gave individuals a broad overview of marketing. Our interns gain experience in public relations, graphic design, video editing and animation, layout and concept design, and social media strategies. We give them meaningful hands-on experience that they can take with them into the workforce and thrive.”
 
After Skils’kin posted the internship opportunity, Washington’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) referred Michael Halbrook as a potential candidate. Michael was just about to finish his B.A. in Visual Communication Design from Eastern Washington University and was looking for his first employment opportunity in marketing. Michael came in to interview, portfolio in hand, and immediately impressed. We hired him on the spot.
 
While serving as a graphic design assistant, Michael designed various deliverables with an artistic and sophisticated touch. He completely revamped the Skils’kin style guide to give it a more modern, inviting feel. He also designed the layout for this year’s annual report, redesigned our company newsletter, and even began helping the marketing team with their videos by creating animated graphics. He accomplished much of this work while simultaneously finishing his degree. By all accounts, Michael was a strong addition to the team, and he made an impact.
 
As Michael’s internship started to draw to a close, he began applying and interviewing for various graphic design positions in the region. Quick Business Resolutions recognized Michael’s talent and ability and offered him a position as a graphic designer, which he has accepted.
 
Skils’kin prides itself on being a conduit within our community for greater success. Through this internship, individuals are building essential work experience that is preparing them for greater success beyond Skils’kin.
 
Now that Michael has launched his career, we are looking for our next intern. If you or someone you know has a competitive design portfolio, and is looking for an opportunity to gain marketing experience, check out our intern job posting on our website.
 
Congratulations, Michael, on your continued success.

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