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VR program helps bridge gap PDF E-mail

Jacob York likes working with numbers and he gets to do just that in a unique program which is helping the 21-year-old overcome his disability and pursue his professional goals.
Having been diagnosed with autism at the age of 5, Jacob has learned to cope with the effects of the disease and is in fact among the especially higher functioning for those with autism. Just like the well-known movie character Rainman, Jacob is good with numbers and has therefore decided to pursue a career in accounting.
“I like school a lot so far,” he said of his studies at Central Community College in Grand Island. “It’s pretty easy for me. It involves numbers, which is why I like it so much.’

The Nebraska Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program and the Aurora Cooperative are helping Jacob reach his career goals. A 2011 Aurora High graduate, Jacob first starting working at the coop his senior year through a work-study program, and eventually became involved with the VR program.
“Our agency is helping people prepare for, find and keep a job,” explained Rita Meier, employment specialist with the Nebraska VR. “We also plan for training services to help them reach their employment goals.”
VR staff worked with Aurora High School providing transition services to include vocational assessment to identify Jacob’s aptitudes, interests and an appropriate job goal. Once he graduated from high school, VR’s college monitor tracked Jacob at CCC to ensure he was accessing his accommodations and handling responsibilities of a college student. VR also assisted him with some college funding once he proved himself capable of college coursework.
Jacob, the son of Shannon York and Mary York, plans to complete an associates degree in accounting this December. He drives to Grand Island each morning for classes, Monday through Friday, then drives back to Aurora, where he works 20 hours a week in the Aurora Cooperatives’ accounts payable department.
“I like working with numbers,” Jacob said. “I also like the way things are set up here and all the people are so nice. Coming here is like a family. It makes it easier to come to work.”
On the job, Jacob helps write up, code and file invoices, assists with data entry on the computer, scans items and puts packets together when needed.
“Jacob has been a good fit for us here,” said Tom Roeder, the company’s AP supervisor. “He’s willing to do whatever he’s asked to do whether it’s shredding paper or filing. Jacob is very reliable and we count on him here.”
Dawn Enderle and Karen Engel work with Jacob as well and have observed him to be a fast learner.
“There is a lot of memory involved in this work and he does very well with it,” Enderle said. “He is really quick with everything he does and I would say he is in the right field.”
“There is also a lot of detail involved with sales tax auditing, noting resale versus expense, and he’s always very accurate,” Engel added. “He’s very speedy on the computer and very dedicated to his job. I think he enjoys it here and he’s certainly a pleasure to work with.”
Once he graduates from CCC, Jacob said he may continue working at the Aurora Cooperative.
“I think that will be up to Jacob,” Roeder said. “If he likes it here we could always find more work for him to do. We could branch him into accounts receivable or the grain department. There is some opportunity for him here.”

National awareness month
Jacob is just one of many students working through the Nebraska VR program, a state agency which is part of the Nebraska Department of Education. Meier noted that October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, so it’s a good time to shine the light on the program and its  benefits.
“We help people who experience physical, emotional, learning, cognitive disabilities that make it difficult for the person to prepare for, find and keep a job,” she explained. “We help them connect with employers and find a job, and also follow up to make sure employers and the client are happy.”
The program is also designed to help businesses recruit, train and keep employees with disabilities.
“Basically, it’s a program for individuals to fulfill their potential in terms of their abilities,” Meier said.
To learn more about Nebraska VR, log on to the program’s website at or call the Grand Island office, which serves several Central Nebraska counties, at 1-800-862-3382.

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