My Story — Jerreia James, William, & Rico
My name is Jerreia James, and I’ve worked at CWTC for five years. Before my pathway brought me to CWTC, I worked with Community Integration Manager Jennifer Shadowens at Robert A. Jamieson School in Peoria, IL. I saw Jennifer at an event at Wildlife Prairie Park speaking about her position here and how much she enjoyed it. I took a tour and instantly fell in love with the mission, the consumers, and the community! I started as a Community Integration Trainer, and today, I am Job Developer and Employment Readiness Coordinator in our Community Employment Program.
I don’t really know what I was expecting when I started this journey, but CWTC has exceeded all expectations beyond comprehension. I LOVE what I do. All our consumers dream of being productive members of their community and seeing them achieve their dreams and accomplish their goals is one of the best feelings in the entire world.
Those we support are talented, strong, caring, loving, and fully capable of doing everything they put their mind to, and working with them requires compassion and understanding that a disability is just a different ability. CWTC is founded on helping these amazing people see their full potential. That is extended to the staff members. If you work at CWTC, I can guarantee you will fall in love with the culture, the people, and the impact you are making on the lives of others.
The support CWTC provides is immeasurable. We are known for going the extra mile to assist any person that walks through our doors in any way we can. Public safety officials, other nonprofit agencies, and schools know we can assist with the vocational needs of the community. There is so much support needed for our individuals with challenges. Sometimes, parents and families just need extra assistance and understanding. They want to know someone cares and will help them navigate through the challenges that they may face.
Being a part of CWTC has been life-changing for my entire family. Both of my sons, William and Ricardo, are beneficiaries of the support services provided by CWTC.
William is 24 years old. Diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder when he was 4 years old, he faced many challenges throughout elementary school, but by the time he reached eighth grade, he was an amazing student. I was concerned about the changes and challenges he would face moving on to high school, but William took on high school by storm. He participated in varsity football for four years, earning IHSA 5A Academic All-Conference honors. He participated in Junior ROTC Marine Corps, including being a part of the archery team and earning honors for academic and community service. He participated in concert choir and madrigal singers where he earned a Fermata Award. He also graduated as part of the National Honor Society and is currently a student at Illinois Central College, where he has earned President’s List Honors.
“I love the camaraderie I have with my fellow coworkers and the friendships I have developed with the U.S. Marshals and the judges at the federal courthouse,” William said. “I feel appreciated and recognized for my good work ethic and punctuality. I recently was awarded the Gail Leiby Award at the 2022 Pathways Conference.”
Approximately three years ago, we began discussing William’s future employment. William is a hard worker and a quick learner, but we wanted him to find employment where the employer understood his needs as well as recognized his abilities. With the Community Employment services offered by CWTC, they have helped William build a pathway toward a bright future. Serving the community on a federal courthouse contract, William has maintained his confidence and the pride he is known for. He has grown as a leader and is looking forward to his future.
And the impact on our family doesn’t end with William. My younger son, Ricardo “Rico” is also a high-achieving student with his own confidence challenges related to severe obstructive sleep apnea and anxiety. Thankfully CWTC was able to support him through the Community Employment program as well.
“I feel like CWTC is a family. I know I have support and guidance at any time,” Rico said. “Rod (Employment Specialist) checks on me regularly. They are always available and have even helped me with homework for my classes. I am proud of my job and my accomplishments.”
Since beginning his work at the Louisville Slugger Complex, Rico has gained a level of confidence and responsibility that we’ve never seen in him before. Before, Rico was reluctant to leave the house, interact with others outside his family, and not as active. Now, however, he is engaging in conversations, meeting new people, and enjoying his growth. He’s confident, employed, and on a pathway paved with support and encouragement.