Rodrigo Contreas has balanced completing high school and working full time, and has been extremely successful at both. While attending the Illinois School for the Deaf (ISD) in the "fifth year" program, which is designed for students who have completed academic coursework needed for graduation, but still need further educational and independent living experiences, Rodrigo has demonstrated how having a positive attitude and working hard can lead to a bright future.

Rodrigo's employer, Knollwood Retirement Home, commented that his "level of maturity, productivity, attitude and overall work ethic exhibited last year as a senior while working part time in the STEP program led us to offer Rodrigo full time employment with benefits when we found out he was returning to ISD this fall."

Rodrigo's primary job duties include general cleaning of the kitchen, dining room and store room. He also prepares and serves food to residents and stocks shelves. After Rodrigo has put in a full days work at Knollwood, he returns to ISD to attend classes pertaining to money management, daily living skills, personal hygiene and cooking and cleaning. Rodrigo also makes time to play intramural soccer with fellow ISD Students.

When asked what motivates him to go to work every day and what he likes about his job, Rodrigo answered "I have a responsibility to do my job because they depend on me. I like helping the residents get their meals and I like interacting with them every day." Rodrigo's biggest challenge has been communicating with hearing people. "I try my best by writing, using what hearing I have and speech reading." Rodrigo has taken advantage of VR services through STEP and School-to-Work programs at ISD and encourages other students to "pay attention to what you are being taught because what you learn will definitely help you when you get to the work world."

Rodrigo defines success as living on his own, managing his life and his bank account, and being a full time self supporting adult.


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