Honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

 

 

JIM COREY: Did you know that Martin Luther King’s watershed speech “I have the dream” was actually about jobs, and that the 1963 March on Washington was actually known as the “1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom”?  In almost all of MLK’s major speeches and writings he addresses jobs as one of the major things our society needs to address so that people are able to lift themselves out of poverty.  Let me quote, “We call our demonstration a campaign for jobs and income because we feel the economic question is the most crucial that black people and poor people in general are confronting.”

Martian Luther King led the way for Employment for All.

What can we do, almost 60 years later, to make the dream of employment for all possible?

We look forward to this discussion. Thank you very much. Thank you Martin Luther King.

2017-18 Annual Report Available Now!

The Wise annual report for 2017-18 is available now, click here!

Each year our staff and associates set out to provide high quality training and technical assistance first within the Pacific Northwest and second to those seeking to improve integrated employment in their locations. You’ll find in the report that during this past year we provided thousands of hours of training and technical assistance across Washington and Oregon.

Along the way we observed several themes of note. National trends continue to lean heavily toward increasing competitive integrated employment service enrollment, delivery and outcomes. Many states are implementing minimum training standards and seeking stateside training and technical assistance services to build employment service capacity. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities continue to seek quality community-based services and supports, yet funding and service capacity lag the demand. The passion and leadership for employment equity continues to grow with veteran and emerging leaders in self advocacy demanding at least minimum wages and jobs that help meet employer needs. For example, from her closing remarks at the 2017 WA State Employment First Forum, Ivanova Smith shares the following:

“When people say some can’t work! Or some can’t live in community or some can’t make minimum wage it hurts all of us. We all can work! We all can benefit from inclusion in community! We need to end systems that allow for oppression based on functioning labels. Even if all a person can do it smile that is enough! They are valued Person. We all are human beings that deserve the dignity of work and community! That is why am for Employment First for all!”

 

We hope that you enjoy reading our report as much as we enjoyed developing it and delivering the work!

 

New Staff at Wise…

We are excited to share some changes to our Team at Wise this spring. We have recently welcomed a new program manager, Josie Sparks. Josie brings years of experience in employment and community inclusion program development. In addition, we have added a new position of operations and communications coordinator to the Team. Morgan Cain, currently serving as our accounting and administrative assistant, has been promoted to this new position beginning May 1 We are very much looking forward to the impact Josie and Morgan will make in their new roles at Wise.

Josie Sparks possesses deep experience supporting individuals with and without disabilities in various settings. She bring years of experience leading teams to explore and experience their greatness. Josie has worked with a phenomenal team that played an intricate part in supporting people in both vocational and community settings. She plays a vital role in challenging her team to help people with disabilities achieve personal goals, establishing themselves as contributing members of their communities and finding innovative ways to promote independence. Josie had the pleasure of presenting at the 2017 TASH conference in Atlanta, Georgia where her focus was Community Inclusion and the Pathway to Employment. When she is not working, Josie dedicates her time to her family and competing in Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe racing in the Pacific NW and throughout the United States.

Headshot of Morgan

Morgan Cain joined the Wise staff after graduating from the University of Washington with a degree in Psychology. She has always had a passion for social justice, and is excited to be part of a team that is working toward equitable employment for all. She is eager to bring her years of experience in administrative management into the nonprofit sector, and to continue learning the ins and outs of nonprofit management and accounting. When not at work, Morgan enjoys spending time outdoors in the beautiful Seattle area, reading classic novels, and walking her two dogs around Greenlake.

Reflections on Community Inclusion by Stephen Eyman

Recently I caught wind of the decision to change the name of the Community Access Program to Community Inclusion. As I think back on my years as a Community Access Specialist in Spokane, I can’t help but reflect on the meaning of true inclusion in our community and what true inclusivity looks like.

I remember my first day of inclusion work like it was yesterday. I was a young, idealistic, recent college graduate looking for meaningful work. My first day at the local community center felt like a big, clean breath of fresh air after months of uncertainty. Nothing I had found up until that point had quite aligned with my ideals and interests, and I felt like I had been holding my breath for quite some time. The way the job description wove together ‘access’ and ‘inclusion’ was unique and invigorating, as was the opportunity to make a tangible difference in my community. This is it – this is exactly what I have been looking for,” were the words that echoed in my head on my way home that afternoon.

The job for me was not only a professional opportunity, but also something I could relate to on a personal level. Although I had been previously unaware of the compelling idea of inclusion as a vocation, I had been in the business of inclusion for quite some time. As the sibling to a younger brother heavily-affected in life by a disability label, I was able to look at inclusion as more than just an intangible concept to strive towards professionally.

To illustrate it, I could have instead pulled out a worn VHS tape and pointed the concept out to you more practically in the fabric of our childhood home. “There, that’s it. That’s the definition of inclusion,” I could have told anyone who cared to listen, as they would watch my sister and I orbiting dizzying circles around my brother in the home video footage; he lays on his back in the middle of the room, smiling, laughing, and engaged in the joyful chaos. My sister and I run far and wide, yet we always circle back. In those memories, my brother is the center of our play and our home. Inclusion was so very simple and unannounced in our youth.

As I began my new job back in those recent graduate days, I soon found that the concept of inclusion had become so much more convoluted in the context of adulthood. My sister and I were no longer spinning circles around my brother in the living room.  He had in fact recently joined us in the strange adult world of looking past education towards whatever the rest of life is supposed to be. Consequently, the vibrant young-twenty-something spaces available to us, we soon found were difficult to navigate in the world of labels and diagnoses. This experience was not at all uncommon. Many of the people I met through my job as a Community Access Specialist were in a similar situation: looking back on childhood and wondering— where exactly do I belong?

In my job, I met brilliant people all around. I met people that included me in their world with an unmatched generosity. In the most clear or subtle ways, I was invited into so many people’s spaces, perspectives, and unique forms of communication. I had the privilege of working with colleagues who were enthusiastic about the basic right people should have to access community spaces. These were the kind of people who would strap themselves to a rocket if it meant making the moon accessible. It was a natural fit for me, and I am filled with gratitude for that experience.

Working together in the Community Inclusion Program (CA at the time), we had some clear and resounding successes. I remember the way an older man connected with the people at the farmer’s market where he volunteered—the way he came to life when contributing to a common goal. I remember when a younger man connected to his college-aged peers through dance; I also remember his boundless excitement the moment he was immersed in water after years that swimming had been unavailable to him. These successes filled me with the desire to get out there and make things happen every morning.

However, I now feel community inclusion can be so much more dynamic and effective than I ever originally dreamed. In fact, If I had the opportunity now to go back and give advice to that younger version of myself, I would challenge and encourage that young person to go even further—to seek out that deeper meaning of inclusion I knew with my siblings in my childhood home.

For me, the limitations I experienced began with never truly understanding the capacity of my position and the extent of its inclusive mission. I saw boundaries where I no longer see them. What I missed in those years was a deeper invitation to be something bold and unique and entirely beyond my concept of what a social services system could provide. At that time, I knew only the world of respite and direct support; yet, the skills I wish I had employed are more akin to those of an active agent of change, a networker, and a community organizer extraordinaire.

To believe fully and profoundly in inclusion and to embody it professionally, one must have the courage to be creative and dynamic. Working in community inclusion means getting outside of what is comfortable, outside of the important services that we already know and understand. It means we must find a way to cleverly interweave all the elements of life and service towards inclusion. It requires us to stand up, to listen deeply, and to ask for profound teamwork from others. It teaches us to research, to find community resources, and to have the humility to ask for assistance when we confront something outside of our expertise.

I found great meaning and accomplishment in my CI experience because I repeatedly asked myself an important question: what can I do to bring inclusion, meaning, and richness to the hours inside my influence as a service provider? Yet, I think there is a deeper question.  Community inclusion should entail exploration and profound creativity. It means making the connections, seeking out support and collaboration, and advocating for a life that goes beyond the boundaries of a billing cycle. The question I want to ask is this: what can you do to ensure those in your community experience inclusion, meaning, and richness during every hour of life? What would it take for true inclusion to become typical, and how can you actively promote that?