Jennifer's path to success hasn't come easy, nor did she expect it would. Her job as a Correctional Officer at Dwight Correctional Center is physically and mentally demanding, requiring her constant focus and attention to detail; but for Jennifer, hard work is nothing new.
From a very early age Jennifer met challenges with a sense of confidence and determination, especially education. At a very early age school personnel identified that Jennifer had a learning disability that affected her reading and writing abilities. Although there were challenges, things may have been a lot different had it not been for the ongoing support she received from her parents and younger siblings. "My parents both knew it (school) would be a struggle for me, and at times it was, but deep down they knew I could reach my dreams. Also, my younger brothers and sisters were always there for me," she says.
While in high school, teachers informed Jennifer's parents that there were services available to her through The Department of Human Services, Division of Rehabilitation Services that could help her with her education and employment goals. Jennifer applied for services through DRS, and began working with a vocational counselor. Together they agreed on a plan for her to begin school at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, IL. Upon enrolling, Jennifer's counselor referred her to the schools Achieve Program, which helped Jennifer to receive specific assistance related to her learning disability.
Although Jennifer expressed significant challenges related to school, she reports it didn't make her feel different from anyone else. "I think the most important thing for children and adults with learning disabilities is that people with learning disabilities just learn at a different pace. It might take us a while to understand what people are trying to get across or say but we do eventually understand. It is at that moment when we feel good. Live for that moment and continue to reach for your dreams."
In the end, Jennifer completed a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice and Sociology. DRS continued to assist Jennifer with securing employment, and as a result, she was hired as a Correctional Officer for Dwight Correctional Center in Dwight, IL.
Jennifer is appreciative of all the assistance she received from DRS, but also praises her parents for equipping her with a strong work ethic. "I was brought up that you go to work without complaining to support yourself and your family. Life can throw you many obstacles and every day I get up knowing that I have achieved something that I can be proud of and that going to work will help me continue to grow as a person and achieve other goals."
Jennifer's future goals involve going though the state's upward mobility program so that she can be a correctional counselor. She also looks forward to traveling, enjoying time with her friends and enjoying her new home that her job enabled her to buy. For Jennifer, hard work has paid off.
For more information about transition services for students with disabilities, see the Secondary Transitional Experience Program. Also, find out about DRS's Community College Initiative and how DRS can assist you in earning a community college degree.
To learn more, call 1-877-761-9780 Voice, 1-866-264-2149 TTY, (312) 957-4881 VP, or read about DRS's Services. Refer yourself or someone else for services using the online Rehabilitation Services Web Referral.