Today kicks off the start of events around Disability Mentoring Day (DMD) for Bender Consulting Services. DMD is one of my favorite events of Disability Employment Month because it connects young people with disabilities with members of the workforce with a focus on showing them the many options they have for the future. It is always a rewarding experience for both the high school and college students and the employees at participating companies.

This week, we will hear from two young people with disabilities who have recently joined the workforce. The first is Jenny Homme. Jenny has a special place in my heart since I have known her for her whole life. Jenny was born the same year that Bender Consulting Services was formed. Her father, Jim Homme, is the first person with a disability that I aligned with an employment opportunity. I have had the pleasure of watching her grow and mature into a talented new addition to the workforce.

Jenny currently works with one of my most treasured partners, Highmark. Highmark is the first company to back me when I started Bender Consulting Services and for them, the decision was quick. Today, they still support Bender through the Careers2B program, as well as through the Pennsylvania Mentor Protégé Program Opens a New Window.  launched by Governor Wolf in 2018. I always say when it comes to hiring people with disabilities, Highmark truly sets the high mark for other companies to follow.

Diokete Hupsala. Aim High.

By Jenny Homme

As I look back over the last year…my transition from a college student to a full-time member of the workforce, I am amazed by how much has changed and I’m looking forward to the next steps in my career. As a student with a mental health disability, college was sometimes an extremely difficult experience. Many of the symptoms of my disability didn’t become present until I was in college, which meant that unlike other students who were struggling to juggle classes, part-time jobs, and extracurricular activities, I was also learning to understand the nature of my disability.

One of the many challenges I had to face was taking on the role of a self-advocate. Explaining to professors about my disability and working with them to put accommodations in place to ensure my success as a student in their class. Each semester brought the questions of what attitude I would encounter as I approached my professors. Mental health has a huge stigma around it. When disclosing a mental health disability, there are many different responses I’ve become familiar with; some people want to understand and help, others look at you as if there is something ‘wrong’ with you, and others act as if you are making excuses or exaggerating the impact of your disability. The challenges that people with mental health disabilities endure are very real. 

Transitioning from college to the workforce brought new considerations; the thing that concerned me most in this transition was the adjustment to working a full 40-hour work week. During school there are a lot of ways you can set up your day with many breaks, which I used to manage the symptoms of my disability. In business, this doesn’t happen – so I knew I would need to make adjustments and identify new ways to accommodate my disability. However, I knew I would have a great support system with Bender Consulting Services, having worked with them throughout high school and college.

I was so incredibly excited when I received my Careers2B opportunity with Bender at Highmark about a month after graduation. I knew that this was going to be my chance to prove that I am capable of being successful. For the past nine months, I have worked as a business analyst within HM Health Solutions focusing on an initiative around digital accessibility. During that time, I have been able to apply skills I learned throughout my time at Bender Consulting Services and through my Greek life experience at college. Joining Greek Life truly allowed me to grow as an individual and as a leader while interning at the Bender office gave me a true expectation for the professional world. I have been able to apply my skills as a leader and my ability to challenge myself in new ways, to my current position. The Careers2B Program has helped me grow as an individual in the workforce. I have had the opportunity to participate in many different projects and this experience has helped me decide what type of career path I want to follow.

If I were to offer advice to college seniors or recent college graduates with disabilities, the message I would share is don’t hold yourself back. Know that you are capable of more than you expect and always work towards a new goal. My sororities motto is ‘Diokete Hupsala’ or ‘Aim High’ and I think this is a great message for people with disabilities to remember. My experience with the Careers2B Program has helped me to see the best in myself. You shouldn’t let anyone hold you back, especially if that person is you. Always aim to be the best you can be. Diokete Hupsala. 

 

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