On Thursday, October 10, 2018, College Experience alumni Jordan West and Andrew Maggio were kind enough to lend their time to an EmployAbility event sponsored by the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). The event was held in the Apple Store of the Crossgates Mall before the building opened to the public. Jordan is a 2017 graduate of the College Experience and Andrew is from the Class of 2014. Participating in the event was also John Robinson who has been a longtime Living Resources, Inc. friend, as well as a nationally-recognized motivational speaker.

Jordan West gave a grateful account of what it is like to be employed by Druthers Brewing Company. It’s true that no matter what type of job one has, if it is fun to do it probably is not referred to as “work”. Even Disney-philes who land their dream job working at the Magic Kingdom sometimes have bad days just like everybody else in the adult world. On the other hand, it always helps just a little bit to be employed in a place that caters to one’s passions. Like many adult men in their early-twenties, Jordan is very fond of responsibly drinking beer and also has a passion for learning the brewing process. The following are his words, which produced plenty of chuckles from the audience:

Good morning. My name is Jordan West, and I want to share my work experience with you. I work at Druthers Brewing Company in Albany. I work the bottling line and am doing cases for six packs and stuff them into larger cases for distribution. I also clean the kegs and sample the product to ensure its quality – for work purposes only!

My job is important to me because I am very, very passionate about the craft beer industry and the culture. I have had other jobs…most of which were not successful. Druthers feels like my second home because of how supportive the employer and my co-workers are to me. Whenever I am having a problem with the task I am doing, I go and ask them, “How do I do this?” or “Can you help me?” They are always willing to help me. They are very patient with me.

I am here to tell you that employers should hire people with disabilities because everybody deserves a chance whether you have disability or not. Since Druthers gave me an internship opportunity through ETP (Employment Training Program) I am now competitively employed at my dream job. Thank you all for being here. I appreciate your time. I hope you will all consider giving people with disabilities a fair shot at employment!

Andrew Maggio has been working for Marshalls Clothing Store since 2015 and explained:

What I do at Marshalls is the basic stuff, which is handling shoes and on some occasions would also clean the mirrors. It is just the baby steps because you have to have a starting point if you want to get to your key goal in life. While I was looking for a job in Albany, I thought it was going to be a long-term search. Thankfully my job coach found Marshalls, and once I did the assessment I was hired there right on the dot. You can imagine how much has progressed since 2015. On a lighter note, I have been counting how many shoes I have done and I did over 3,000 to be exact! Socializing at work also helped me out as well because when I socialize at work it helped me improve and socialize in my recreational time.

My key goal in life is to be a public speaker not just for the autism community but for disabilities as a whole. I do what I can to get out of my comfort zone and just get my butt out of bed and do the best I can. Here we are in 2018, and two years from now we are going to be in a new decade with new ideas, new possibilities, and new strategy skills for the disability community!

Andrew has been known for his sense of humor during the entire time he has been involved with the College Experience as a student and then an alumnus. He participates in meetings at Marshalls designed to improve customer service and operations. Andrew is always willing to chime in with new ideas and says that his co-workers also look to him for comic relief during these meetings. He has also spoken to Mercy College, the College of Saint Rose, Orange Ulster BOCES, and even Chatham Middle School to speak to the students about ending bullying.

All of us at the College Experience thank Jordan and Andrew for always being willing to serve as role models for our individuals and have little doubt they are going to be successful in their professional endeavors.