As I reflect on my eighteen years as CEO of AbilityFirst, I am grateful for the opportunity to have witnessed the growth and empowerment of so many of our participants. I’ve seen countless individuals come to our afterschool programs as preteens and grow into independent adults through our College to Career program, explore new talents through our PossAbility program, or gain skills through our Supported Employment Program. All this work mirrors our commitment to look beyond disabilities while expanding possibilities. We simply couldn’t have done it without you.
One person I think of fondly is Maria. I met Maria more than fifteen years ago when she was part of a supported employment maintenance group, cleaning our administrative offices. I always admire the smile on her face and the joy she emanates everywhere she goes. Over the years, I have followed Maria as she has transitioned through several of our programs.
Today, Maria is fulfilling her lifelong dream of becoming an artist through our PossAbility program. I recently purchased one of her art pieces which I am proudly displaying in my office. It represents her so well – full of bright, happy colors that remind me every day of the new possibilities she has found.
We are so grateful that because of you, we were able to bring these life changing programs to more than 1700 participants this year. As we celebrate this season of giving and thanks, please consider making a gift to AbilityFirst to help more individuals like Maria expand their possibilities in life.
Winnie has blossomed into a gregarious, karaoke singing teenager, from a shy, quiet 6-year-old girl. She is the Claremont center’s “in-house cheerleader,” encouraging her friends to succeed. Winnie has learned to express her opinions and needs. She loves to joke around and be silly and tell stories with self-confidence. Good job, Winnie!
When Charles first came to the AbilityFirst Joan and Harry A. Mier Center in Inglewood, more than 12 years ago, he wasn’t comfortable being in the pool. The center’s programs emphasize water safety, because people with disabilities are at higher risk of drowning. He progressed from playing water basketball games to learning to float and swim. Today, he loves the pool and looks forward to his swimming lessons each week!
College is a lot more complicated than high school – more classes, more people, more work, more time management issues, to name just a few. As a communications major at Pasadena City College, Jesse has found that an educational coach gives him the support and confidence he needs to deal with the challenges that come up along the way. Go Jesse!
Ivan recently obtained a new job at Superior Grocers. He has been working with a job coach in the AbilityFirst supported employment program as he completes his employer’s training program and becomes familiar with the duties and routines of the position. Ivan shares, “I like it…I am very happy…I really like working here!”