In the mornings, Pamela Stevens is one among many employees at the Boulder Station Cafe who bounces back and forth between dining area and kitchen to appease hungry guests.
Later that night, Sam Sedgwick starts his shift as a porter at the same casino, cleaning the areas around slot machines and other areas.
The two don't have anything in common other than they are both graduates of the Pathway to Work job training program. At one time, they were both clients of Opportunity Village, and a part of that first class of participants to job train at Boulder Station.
The Pathway to Work is a 3-6 month job training program for individuals with disabilities. So far, Station Casinos is the only business in the casino industry to sign up for the two-year-old program.
Once they went through the program, both Stevens and Sedgwick were offered full-time employment, which as allowed them to do the things that everyone else does - save for a car, pay off bills, enjoy some Las Vegas entertainment.
Programs like this one seek to integrate intellectually or developmentally disabled (IDD) individuals into the world around them through work and education.
And the need is significant. Some estimates say that up to 80 percent of IDD individuals are either underemployed or unemployed. Opportunity Village services roughly 1,500 clients and so far about 20 have gone through the Pathway to Work.
KNPR is joined by a panel of guests to talk about the challenges of expanding programs like this one, and what has changed to even allow us to get to this point.
Sam Sedgwick, porter, Boulder Station
“I learned responsibility, independence and reaching for the goals I have.”
“It makes me feel really happy because I look back maybe two years ago before I had this job and I didn’t have nothing.”
Stacy Carlston, assistant manager community outreach department, Opportunity Village
“The goal of the program is to provide job training in community setting with a supportive employer”
“I find myself saying a lot to community partners, ‘how would you treat your regular employees?’ ‘What would you do for anybody else?’ We might have to jump in and make some kind of accommodation for somebody but all in all you’re going to be treating them like any other employee on your team. They see that eventually, but it’s kind of getting them to give us a shot initially to get in there to show them that.”
Nicole Jorwic, The Arc
“We have seen some movement; however, the majority of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities or IDD are unemployed or under employed despite their ability, desire and willingness to work in the community.”
“People with intellectual and developmental disabilities face large hurdles to entering the work force due to lack of presumed competence… We want to make sure that people with disabilities are seen just like any other employee.”
“This is certainly part of the Civil Rights Movement. For people in with developmental and intellectual disabilities the movement towards civil rights and equal access really began with de-institutionalization. Family began fighting to keep family members with developmental and intellectual disabilities at home.”
“I’m of the firm belief that a job in the community is the greatest form of inclusion and a safety net for individuals. A job is essential to a person with a disability because it gives an individual a purpose and a common ground to build on with the rest of their community.”
“We need individuals who are in school settings and college settings and employment settings see the abilities of individuals with IDD and not focus on presumptions on what they cannot do”
Josh Baker, assistant professor of education and clinical studies, UNLV
“Project Focus is a post-secondary education program for students with intellectual disability. We’re talking about getting them integrated into the workforce as well as academics on UNLV campus.”
“Think about when you went to college, you learned so much more than the books and the academic piece. So, there are a lot of social aspects to it.”
“Many of these individuals see their peers go away to college when they’re 18 and they don’t understand why they can’t go. They’ve always been told, ‘no you can’t do this.’ Well, now they can.”
Heidi Kyser, Desert Companion:
“What I learned is how much things have changed… I have a younger brother who has a disability… Growing up with him and watching his experience in the classroom in the small town that we grew up. And his experience to find a job and hold down a job is very different from what Sam is experiencing at Boulder Station.”
From Desert Companion: "Just like anyone else"
SLIDESHOW: Pathway to Work
Stacy Carlston, assistant manager, community outreach department, Opportunity Village; Nicole Jorwic, The Arc; Josh Baker, assistant professor of education and clinical studies; Sam Sedgwick, porter at Boulder Station; Heidi Kyser, writer, Desert Companion