DRS Success Stories


Sarah grew up in the Northern Illinois Township of Warren. The youngest of three children, Sarah reports that her family has always been close, supportive and caring to each other, characteristics that also be seen in their career paths. Her father, worked as a carpenter for Habitat for Humanity, her mother a Special Education Instructor in 7th grade; her brother a professional Photographer, and her sister, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker

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The story of a superhero is usually comprised of a few common elements: tragedy, confronting weakness or fears, acclimation to the superpower and battling against negative forces for the sake of humankind. They instill hope, and a sense of security and protection in a time of instability. Jacques LaCour, who recently earned his master's degree in Cyber Defense from Dakota State University, has a story that personifies the elements of an everyday superhero.

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For 37-year-old Bradley Ramirez, a customer of Illinois Department of Human Services, Division of Rehabilitation Services (DHS-DRS) and resident of Park Lawn, March can mean only one thing - baseball is just around the corner. "I love going to the ballpark and watching the Thunderbolts and the Chicago White Sox."

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Darion's Story

For Kevin Diaz, who not only has past criminal convictions, but a spinal cord injury sustained from a gunshot wound, getting a second chance wasn't a given, but a second chance is exactly what he received.

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Darion's Story

Darion Simmons is a man fortunate enough to make his passion his vocation. Darion's bright future has been paved with hard work, and perseverance and a great deal of support along the way.

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Michelle's Story

Michelle Henton works as a Guidance Counselor at a company that provides services to over 45,000 companies. While her journey to success has had challenges and setbacks, her hard work and perseverance have gotten her through.

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Robin's Story

Robin came to the Bureau of Blind Services to receive homemaker services after he lost his vision from glaucoma at age 41. At that time, he didn't have an employment goal because he couldn't think of any type of work that he could do.

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Jim's Story

Just because an injury limits what you can do, it doesn't limit you. That is the life message you get when talking to Jim Brown, and it's one he knows all too well.

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Tony's Story

People with disabilities shouldn't have to go through life being "good enough." Nobody knows that better than Tony Ezzi.

Read more of Tony Ezzi's Story


Justin's Story

Justin Herbst doesn't think of himself as an inspiration. Instead, he's just someone trying to improve his life.

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Allen's Story

Allen Sugar is a man of many talents and interests. But it's what he doesn't have that makes this story of success so much more intriguing.

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Laura's Story

Laura Martinez has been blind since infancy. In January 2015, her dream of opening her very own restaurant came true.

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Matt's Story

What do you get when you mix a passion for teaching and a love for basketball? The answer is the University of Illinois Men's Wheelchair Basketball Coach, Matt Buchi.

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Steve's Story

Steve Calvert's arthritis forced him to give up the job he loved. With DRS's help, Steve received the life-changing hip replacement and therapy it took to get him back to coaching gymnastics.

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Stephen's Story

Stephen Plambeck has a gift when it comes to handling and caring for dogs. He is currently putting his powers to good use at the Carlson Canine Camp, a doggy daycare in Freeport, IL. But it took effort to find his calling.

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Nancy's Story

Hearing loss can be a challenge in any aspect of life, but for Nancy Swisher it proved especially difficult in following her passion in caring for seniors. With help from the Illinois Department of Human Services Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS), Nancy has been able to maintain her job as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) doing what she loves.

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Dianna's Story

Dianna Noonan's career as a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) came from blending two things she has extensive experience with; sports (track and field) and healthcare.

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Gina's Story

Gina Peoples is a Rehabilitation Case Coordinator for the Illinois Department of Human Services, Division of Rehabilitation field office in Decatur, Il. This position allows Gina, who is Legally Blind, to assist with coordinating services for individuals with disabilities so that they may achieve successful employment, something Gina knows a lot about.

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Sid's Story

For over 2 decades Sid Jackson had a successful career in food service management. He loved every aspect of his job, especially selecting the right employees for his team. And, as Sid will tell you, that team always included employees with disabilities.

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Tom's Story

Thomas McCartney has a love of the outdoors, especially Morel hunting . He looks forward to it every May around Mother's Day. But while hunting on Mother's Day 2010 Thomas noticed something just didn't seem the same. "I just couldn't explain what it was, but I knew something was different. Something had happened".

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Tony's Story

Jose Antonio (Tony) Galvez has not only benefitted from the services provided through The Division of Rehabilitation Services vocationally, socially and independently, he has also used these skills to help others. His story is one that signifies how one person can impact the lives of so many.

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Byron's Story

After a great deal of consultation and hard work, Byron's passion for music and dream of becoming a producer finally turned into a reality.

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Rodrigo's Story

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), Rodrigo demonstrated how having a positive attitude and working hard can lead to a bright future.

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Donna's Story

For many of us the weekends are a time for rest and relaxation; but for Donna Adams and her family, it's literally a celebration! Donna is the owner of Special Moments Wedding & Party Planning in Pontiac, IL. which specializes in creating themed weddings. Working out of her home allows Donna to be close to her family and they, in turn, have helped make her business a success.

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Aurelio's Story

It's been 2 years now since that chilly morning in April, 2009. I decided to go public and tell my story now in part because May is National Stroke Awareness Month, but also to reinforce how services, like the ones offered through DHS' Division of Rehabilitation, do make a difference in the lives of so many people.

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Mark's Story

Success to Mark means being independent, working at a job he loves, a paycheck, and advocating for himself and his needs. Many of these skills have been fostered through work and life skills courses offered at ISVI.

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Brian's Story

Brian Lucas is a young man with sky-high goals. At the age of 27 he has a resume that most people could only wish for. He is committed to do what is necessary to reach his ultimate goals of becoming a lawyer and a professional motivational speaker who encourages deaf citizens to improve their outreach relationships within their communities. Outreach, afterall, is what enabled him to connect with the Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS), and begin his path towards success.

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Jeff's Story

Jeff Johnson is in pain everyday. Severe complications from Lyme Disease have wreaked havoc on his joints and muscles so much that most days he can't get around his house. For a man who prided himself on always providing for his family this new way of life presents him with daily struggles. "When you can't do anything that's when you appreciate basic things the most. DRS's Home Services program helped me start to get my life and dignity back. How do you put a price on dignity?"

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Shavonna's Video

My name is Shavonna Javon-Johnston and, with the help of DRS, I have been able to maintain my employment. I'm an industrial seamstress and I'm also an inspector. I have multiple sclerosis and I'm visually impaired. DRS helped my be a productive person. My success can be your success.

Watch Shavonna's Video


Susan's Story

Most people who go by Susan Shaw's house know it before they get there. How? Easy, it's the smell of fresh baked goods coming from her business, Central Illinois Events and Catering, in Elkhart, IL. Whether it's her breads, pies, or one of seven types of buttercake, Susan Shaw's business is prospering.

Read More of Susan's Story | Watch Susan's Video


Rachel's Story

A desire to help the elderly is what motivates Rachel Elledge in her job as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) at Barton Stone Nursing Home in Jacksonville. She takes care of the residents and helps their families.

"I like being a part of helping people to live longer," Rachel says.

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Heather's Story

Heather Howe said it best when she said, "everything is starting to pay off!" A single mother of a 9 year old daughter, Heather has shown that with hard work, persistence, and support from DRS, success can happen!

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Daniel's Story

Daniel has always been a hard worker. Before his work at Lowe's he was working as a dinning hall attendant at Scott Air Force Base in Belleville, Illinois. He was also living in a group home. Daniel liked his job, but wanted to have more independence and further his work skills.

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Laura's Story

Laura Martinez brings her passion for cooking to her job at Charlie Trotter's Restaurant in Chicago.

"It has given me the opportunity to develop my skills and ability to the best of my knowledge. I am also more independent economically and personally," said Martinez.

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Watch ABC News: Chef Pursues Culinary Dreams Despite Blindness