Pathways to Careers participants

By Theresa Chavez

When Jennifer Tremea reports to her job at Beehive Daycare Center in Clearfield, Utah, she's greeted by a classroom full of smiles. According to Tremea, it's the warm reception she receives that makes her excited to come to work each morning.

Tremea has been employed at Beehive Daycare Center for the past 18 months. As a teacher's assistant, Tremea gets to do what she does best—teach children—while also earning a paycheck. Tremea, who is on the autism spectrum, struggled to find gainful employment prior to finding SourceAmerica's Pathways to Careers Program. In 2014, she went through the program's Discovery process, which involved assessing her skills and interests and matching them to possible employment areas in the community. The Pathways to Careers team then connected her with several local employers with available internships so she could explore her desired career paths. Over several months, she completed three different internships before interning with Beehive Daycare and securing full-time employment there.

Tremea's success story is one of many since the program's inception in 2012 in Utah. The idea behind it is simple: When people with disabilities are well matched to their jobs in their communities, they have a greater chance of maximizing their career potential. Pathways to Careers has since expanded to three other states, including Massachusetts, Michigan, and Virginia, with a new site in Pennsylvania coming this year.

As the Pathways Program expands its national reach, communities benefit as well. Participants are supported with training and other employment resources in their job placements by SourceAmerica member nonprofits. Additionally, employers get to experience how the program's innovative hiring practices can help make their workplaces more diverse and inclusive. Many employers also report truly enjoying their Pathways to Careers interns and, once hired, as full-time employees.

For individuals like Tremea, Pathways to Careers can give participants the confidence to pursue avenues that will further their employability. At the suggestion of her Pathways to Careers team, Tremea decided to pursue her child development associate certification. The process required 120 hours of classroom instruction, CPR and first aid training, on the job observation, creating a professional portfolio and passing the CDA test. To accommodate Tremea's social anxiety, Tremea took the test in a familiar environment versus the formal exam location. That slight accommodation made all the difference; she passed the exam and is now certified.

In December 2018 in Salt Lake City, Tremea and her parents joined several other guest speakers who shared their Pathways experiences with SourceAmerica's board of directors. Chris Manning and Zane Gershorn, both of whom have disabilities, spoke about finding Pathways internships that were well suited to them. Like Tremea, Manning found his niche teaching children, and Gershorn is employed full time at Tony Divino Toyota in Riverdale, Utah, as a mechanic. All three Pathways participants were supported by SourceAmerica member nonprofit Pioneer Adult Rehabilitation Center in Clearfield, Utah.

While Tremea's father Terry spoke to the SourceAmerica board, he expressed his gratitude for the benefits Pathways to Careers has provided his daughter.

"We're very thankful to SourceAmerica and Beehive Daycare," he said. "They really came to know Jenn, along with her likes, dislikes, abilities, struggles, strengths and weaknesses. When looking for internship placements for her, they took into consideration her sense of humor, her learning struggles and social anxiety. We're so grateful for this team, not only wanting her to be happy but also self-sufficient, valued and successful."

When Tremea took the mic, she proudly displayed her child development associate certificate.

"I learned a lot about my abilities and strengths through the Pathways discovery process," Tremea said. "This program has been a blessing to me in my life and I hope others will be able to have it work for them also."

To learn more about the SourceAmerica Pathways to Careers Program, visit https://www.sourceamerica.org/pathways-careers.