When Sharing A Dream Starts A Journey of Independence: Samantha’s Story
As the first youth client in Palm Beach County, Samantha participated in employU’s Thanksgiving Career Camp. After enjoying all of the Career Camp activities, she quickly requested to take part in employU’s Winter Camp the very next month. She also expressed that she would like to own her own pet store one day. Although she had never worked in a pet store before, she had a love of animals and a passion for caring for them.
After hearing this, the staff at employU knew that working an on-the-job training (OJT) at Big Dog Ranch could be the perfect way for Samantha to gain work experience doing something she loves. After speaking to her Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor and getting a referral for an on-the-job training through employU, Samantha started working as a dog walker at Big Dog Ranch in Loxahatchee. The entire experience was just what Sam needed. Though she was hesitant with the dogs at first, she quickly became comfortable working with the animals with the help of her job coach, Kyra.
Samantha first started working with a couple of smaller dogs and then increased her job responsibilities by learning how to work with, talk with, and clean up after the dogs. Observing the dogs and reporting her observations to the staff was also a job duty Samantha took on. By the end of her OJT, she was walking some of the largest dogs on the property with confidence.
But this is only part of the story. Samantha was able to overcome a pretty big challenge just to get to the job site each day. Historically, Samantha had always relied on her mom for transportation. This, of course, meant she was limited on when she would be able to work. So, with a lot of encouragement from her mom and support from Kyra, Samantha learned how to use the public transportation system in Palm Beach County. By the end of her on-the-job training, Samantha was making calls to schedule her rides, getting on the bus from school, and beginning her shift at Big Dog Ranch without any supports from her mom or staff. Now on her second on-the-job training with Big Dog Ranch, Samantha is beginning to take steps towards a life of independence, and it all started with sharing her dream to own a pet store.