I am Melissa Sherry, the Program Director for Adult Services at employU. When I was 18, I started working in a sheltered workshop supervising adults with developmental disabilities doing piece work and being paid just pennies for a full day of work. I knew even at that young age that everyone, including the participants at the workshop, deserved to live and work in their communities and to have the opportunity to earn a fair wage. Everyone deserves to have dreams, goals, and aspirations.
After a few years of working in the workshop, I had the opportunity to be part of a pilot program where I found businesses that allowed my workshop participants to gain work experience and become employed at various jobs in the community. Seeing the differences in my participants’ behaviors, their happiness of feeling valued, being appreciated for their hard work, and, most of all, being accepted by their coworkers, was all I needed to know that my passion in life was to assist people with disabilities to become employed.
I began working with all disabilities with a strong focus on mental illness. I went to college for Criminal Justice because so many of my customers with disabilities had criminal records and re-entry to society had such a low success rate if the person was not trained and given the opportunity to become gainfully employed.
As the years went by, I was blessed to have some awesome mentors who taught me what I know now. As the Program Director, my goal is to hire and train my staff to have the same level of compassion and dedication to help our participants’ vocational dreams to come true.