If you shop at Value Village in Fredericton, you will see a smiling and hard -working young man, named Zackary Mott (Zack), restocking shelves and helping customers who need a hand. But if you were to go back four years and visit Zack in school, you might not recognize the shy young man who looked as if he wanted to disappear into the background.
“You know when you see people doing things that you can’t and you feel like, ‘well, what can I do that’s so special about me?’ and you know it was hard, that’s for sure.”
Zack who has an intellectual disability struggled to stay motivated, particularly when he had to work much harder than his peers. “I didn’t have any self-confidence at all and that was affecting my school work,” says the strapping teen.
Things were not looking very promising, for Zack, that is, until he came home with a brochure for NBACL’s Transition program. With some trepidation, Zack’s parents signed the permission slip that allowed him to enter the program.
“It didn’t take us long to realize this was the best decision we’d ever made,” says, Heidi Boucher, Zack’s mother.
“Before I didn’t think there was anyone willing to help me, anyone willing to give me a chance, because that’s all I needed was for someone to let me prove to myself and to other people that I can do anything and everything that everyone else can, I just need the right steps to get there,” says Zack.
Enter Lynn Akmens, Transition Facilitator for the New Brunswick Association for Community Living.
“We started off with a PATH for Zack, which is a planning tool to help map out his goals and dreams for his future,” she says.
Zack’s goal was to become independent. He literally set out on the road to independence by taking the city bus.
“I was always relying on my parents to take me wherever I needed to go,” he says.
Zack’s first experiences with success ignited a spark in him to try new things and he continued to work on developing skills to help him reach his ultimate goal, to find a job.
Through the transition program, Lynn Akmens worked with him to further strengthen his independence. He learned how to prepare for job interviews, conduct himself in the workplace and Lynn helped Zack to write a resume. Finally, Zack was able to put his skills into practice at a job co-op at the Giant Tiger in Fredericton.
“The co-op went really well. Zack loved the job and they loved Zack,” Lynn says. However, despite how much Zack was appreciated, there were no job openings at the retail store and it was time for Zack to truly put his newly found independence to the test. He had graduated from High School, but he still didn’t have a job.
“We worked with Jobs Unlimited, an agency that helps to find employment for persons with a disability and they connected him with Value Village in Fredericton.”
They needed someone to restock their shelves and to organize goods in the store. Zack got an interview and after a little persuading, he landed the job!
It was a bumpy start for Zack at his new job. He was responsible for organizing restocking the miscellaneous items, keeping store shelves and display walls neat and organized. This can be overwhelming for any employee working in a busy thrift store.
“I could see that Zack was stressed about keeping up with the pace and the expectations,” says Lynn. “I was worried that he was going to quit. He was so concerned about falling behind that he worked through his breaks.”
He opened up to me about his concerns and I said, “You know I’ve got your back,” and I meant it. I did everything I promised him I would do to help him succeed and he trusted me. Without that trusting relationship, I don’t know if he would have stuck it out,” says Lynn.
“We worked with Value Village and came up with a couple of creative accommodations, such as developing reference cards that explained how items were organized in the store and the staff that Zack worked with gave him more lead time so that he could complete his tasks on time.”
Today, Zack can be seen smiling and happily doing his job. He also continues to work to become more independent. Getting his driver’s licence was another big goal for Zack, because he does not want to rely on his parents to drive him everywhere. This summer Zack received his beginner’s licence and hopes to earn his driver’s licence next year. Recently Zack bought himself a four-wheel all-terrain vehicle (ATV). He got a loan from his stepdad and is using part of his earnings to pay it back to him.
“People’s lives are being changed because of these programs,” he says.
NBACL is working to expand the Transition program to more regions throughout New Brunswick so that more young people with an intellectual disability can have the same opportunities to prove themselves as Zack.
For more information about NBACL’s Transition program, contact Jon Lister, Manager of Employment and Training Initiatives at firstname.lastname@example.org.