Venture is beginning its second year of the Mentor Program, a series designed to strengthen and empower our workforce through a group mentoring approach that offers the opportunity to learn from expert guest speakers, connect with agency leadership, and engage in meaningful discussion with peers. Our employees are what make it possible to fulfill our mission, and we are committed to providing opportunities to staff members of all levels.
Participants will be able to fine-tune skills such as leadership, communication, conflict resolution, collaboration, networking, career development, and more. The program seeks to provide insight about thriving within the human services sector and offers an opportunity for professional growth. Our main goal is to invest in our employees, which will ultimately lead to the improvement of services for the individuals we support and contribute to the professionalization of the human services industry as a whole. Additionally, each participant will be matched with a member of the agency’s senior leadership team that will offer support during the program.
We are proud to be hosting some very knowledgeable professionals from our community who will be speaking to the group about various topics. This fall, we begin the program with a presentation by Christine Singer, who has years of experience in consulting and conducting workshops for companies, non-profit organizations, educational institutions, and human services providers. She will offer insight to the group about communication and conflict management. We are also excited to welcome Chris Tieri from Sturbridge’s own Idea Agency to talk about strategies for career advancement and personal brand development.
To date, three of last year’s Mentor Program participants have gone on to complete advanced degrees, four have been promoted at Venture, and two have experienced career advancement outside of the agency. We are very proud of their success, and we look forward to helping this year’s participants develop their skills, gain confidence, and experience career growth as well.
The following article was written by Andrew with help from the manager of his program. Andrew lives in a Venture residence in Worcester County and wanted to share his experience with using assistive technology.
Every day, I rely on assistive technology. I use an overhead barrier-free lift system to get out of bed in the morning. I then use my customized wheelchair to successfully complete my morning routines before leaving for work. To get to work, I ride in a customized van. The van lifts me off the ground and into the van with staff assistance. When I was younger, all of these things – getting out of bed, getting into my wheelchair, and getting into any mode of transportation – were done by people lifting me. When people lift you, it can be really scary and sometimes I was injured. I have not gotten injured since I started using mechanical lifts and I feel much more comfortable.
In April 2017, I wanted to begin doing some races, but wasn’t sure I would be able to. However, I did not realize that specialized running wheelchairs are available. The first time I saw the running chair, I was a bit nervous. I thought, “It doesn’t look like any other chair I have ever used.” It only has three wheels – two in the back and one in the front.
I was very lucky to meet the team of individuals who designed and built these running chairs, and they explained aerodynamics to me. Until that moment, I had never realized the importance of science in assistive technology.
When I participate in races with the assistance of Team Hoyt New England runners, I am sitting in an aerodynamically correct position for both my physical needs and for the person who is pushing me – amazing! Later this summer, I will be learning to sail on a sailboat that has been fitted with assistive lifts to get in and out of the boat, and a rudder that has been adapted for me to use. I can’t wait… And I am no longer scared of trying any new assistive technology!
Assistive Technology can best be described as a variety of items which can help an individual work around functional limitations imposed by a disability. Some of these items include wheelchairs with adaptive trays to hold a person’s iPad, a brace for a person to be able to hold an eating utensil, a built-up handle of a spoon, or a communication device. These items are essential to improving the quality of life and level of independence for people with disabilities. Other examples of such equipment might be lifts, swings, tricycles, tablets, computer software, shower chairs, specialty writing utensils and so much more. These items can help individuals with mobility, communication, sensory, recreational, or social needs.
With the increasing specialized needs of the individuals we support, Venture has developed an Assistive Technology Committee to help effectively meet these needs. Key employees have been attending conferences and trainings to learn how to develop a program that will help assist individuals access the resources available. Currently, the committee is in the process of conducting assessments to determine what equipment would be most helpful to the individuals in our programs.
In keeping with our mission to enrich the lives of those we serve, we are very proud to announce our partnership with Tantasqua Regional Vocational High School in their commitment to assist people in their community by creating individualized and innovative assistive technology. This fall, we will be working with Ray Rousseau from the Manufacturing Department and Bruce Tranter from the Computer Technology Department to assist us in developing creative approaches. We are looking forward to teaming up to expand our services and we are thankful to the many students who will be dedicated to helping with these projects. Stay tuned for updates!