Thursday, July 12, 2018

Counselor Spotlight: Leah Burgess




Leah Burgess has been serving the Hampton Roads area as a Vocational Counselor for The Choice Group coming up on two years. Her specialty is with Pre-Employment Transition Services and she also works closely with Virginia Autism Project, a non-profit whose focus is to educate lawmakers and the public on issues that impact individuals with autism. Her love of the job comes from making a difference in her community and watching her clients succeed. One of her favorite experiences so far working with The Choice Group is the Collaborations Conference, held annually in Norfolk. She says, “The Choice Group works hard, but plays harder!” Thanks for all of your hardworking and dedication Leah!  

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Mariam came to TCG when she wanted a change!


Mariam was working a retail job for 5 years before she came to The Choice Group looking for a change. Having lots of experience in the retail space, she was skilled at sales and conversing with customers but wanted something different and challenging. With a fun, talkative, and outgoing personality, Mariam wanted a position where she could interact with a lot of different people and have interesting conversations. She began working with Alexandra, her vocational counselor, in October of 2017.

Together they found a position for food demonstrations at Advantage Solutions. Having a personal interest in cooking at home, this was a job that intrigued her. In her position as an Event Specialist, she is able to combine her retail experience with her love of interacting with customers. 

Initially, she was shy drawing people to her demo station, but with her extended and studied knowledge of the products she’s offering, her confidence grew. Stimulated by her active role in engaging her customers in a sales capacity, Mariam finds creative talking points about the products she is demonstrating and is motivated by getting customers to want to buy her products. She’s truly a natural!


A creative spirit and an amazing artist (her home is filled with unique artworks she has made over the years) Mariam enjoys using her free time to paint and cook at home. She lives with her mom and shares the role of cooking and cleaning. She loves the opportunity this position has given her to try out different foods and products that she can use at home and share with her mom! 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

From secondary meal prep, to employee of the month! Casey found success with supported employment


Katie, a vocational counselor for The Choice Group in the Richmond area, has been working with her client, Casey, since June of last year. Relatively new to the workforce, Casey’s main obstacle was finding a position having limited work experience. Along with his mom and his DARS counselor, Katie and Casey sat down to discuss his previous jobs, training experiences, transportation options, hours of availability, and areas of interest. Where would he even want to work?

With an easy going, positive and flexible attitude, it wasn’t hard to find Casey an employer willing to hire him on! He soon found a position at the Chick-fil-A in Mechanicsville that met with of his availability and transportation options. When he began training, Katie worked with him on his basic food preparation tasks for the restaurant as well as customer service skills such as eye contact, multi-tasking and prioritizing in a fast-paced restaurant environment. Katie also worked with the employer, educating them on the importance of natural supports and incentives. 

On the job, he learned to prepare salads, fruit cups, yogurt parfaits, and wraps to Chick-fil-A standards and making custom orders as needed. Initially a secondary preparation person, his skills grew and is now independent in both opening and closing the food preparation area of the restaurant. Earning the recognition of Employee of the Month/Shining Star, his managers have asked him to help train other employees and has cross-trained on hot food prep and various cleaning and maintenance tasks. 

In the year he has been employed with Chick-fil-A, Casey has grown independent on and off the job site. He is very comfortable in his environment and built great natural support relationships and friends among management and co-workers. He is currently working towards obtaining his driver’s license to get back and forth independently. Katie checks in monthly with Casey and his managers with phone calls and on-site visits.

When he’s not at work, you can find him video gaming and joking around with his friends online. Casey enjoys spending time with his dogs and taking vacations with his family.  

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

What does a Job Coach even do?

Darya "Dasha" Bell worked with our Northwest Manager, Adrienne Rudacille. After her experience, she created a super cute and insightful PowerPoint about what her job coach actually does day in and out! We think she nailed it!!!


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Passion, Dedication, and Teamwork: Highlighting Buddy Blatz!



Since starting with The Choice Group, Buddy Blatz has developed himself as both a leader and advocate in his field of work. Buddy is a Lead Counselor in the Central Region of Virginia and provides WISA and TTW services throughout most of the state. Buddy’s coworkers define him as being supportive and always “keeps it interesting" in meetings. He has become well known throughout the state as a knowledgeable and passionate WISA services expert.

There is a common opinion among his colleagues who believe he is an inspiration in the work environment when it comes to being a resource and ally to those around him. Here are some of the things his colleagues had to say:

"Buddy Blatz is a phenomenal man. I have so much honor and respect for him. Never in my three years at the Choice Group have I been inspired by someone as I have Buddy.  I work in Richmond with the WISA Program and he is always available to answer any question, help me with reports, come to my aide when all else has failed and to do it with a smile on his face. My comment to him is, “Buddy, thank you for being MY Buddy.”

Michelle Champion
WISA Administrative Assistant
The Choice Group

"I always hear how knowledgeable he is on the topic and how he has a way of explaining it; making it easy to understand. He really breaks it down to a simple concept. He is also very passionate about WISA services and gets excited explaining all the benefits available.”

Tiffany R. Jenkins, M.S., CRC, CRP
Manager
Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services

"Dependable. Always able to answer the difficult benefits questions and explain situations in a way that our consumers are left with confidence."  

Nikki Mangold, MS
Pre Employment Transition Services Counselor
Department of Aging and Rehabilitation


Congratulations Buddy on all your success and achievements, you are appreciated!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Counselor Feature: Meet Cati Howard!



Cati has been with The Choice Group since February of this year, she serves the Southwest area of Virginia. As a vocational counselor, she loves that her job has given her the ability to make a positive difference in someone's life. Knowing that she has a hand in helping her clients accomplish their employment goals and gain self-confidence through the process is a huge job pay off for Cati. “Helping someone to gain and maintain employment is such a rewarding experience,” she says, and quoting one of her own clients adds, “I don’t dread coming to work.” 

Her most memorable experience to date is the first client she ever worked with. “He was able to secure work with a wonderful company and quickly made natural support systems among his coworkers,” she explains. The way his coworkers and peers showed their support for her client was a moving experience. “I was moved not only by the support shown to my client by his peers but also the thoughtfulness and patience of his management team.” 

Cati continues to do a stellar job at The Choice Group, and is a wonderful addition to our Diversity Committee as well!