Success stories: Lindsey

Lindsey Nguyen is a born multi-tasker. Now, she’s sorting mail into cross sections,
paying close attention to the details. “These are supposed to be by state and then by name,” she says. Her nose and cheeks are peppered with freckles and her shiny hair bobs as she turns her head.

Lindsey smiling while organizing letters to be mailed as part of a subcontracting job.
Lindsey

While she chats, her eyes flick around the room, watching over her colleagues, ready to step in with words of support should someone appear bogged down. It’s mid-morning, and the room is abuzz: sorting, packaging of various items and convivial chatter and laughter. Among other things, Lindsey is looking forward to her lunch break. “I bring my lunch. My mom packs different things. Today I have chicken and potatoes. I’m diabetic, and we have to watch what I eat,” she says.

At 34, Lindsey’s experience with Dale Rogers Training Center has spanned more than a decade, beginning when she was in high school at Westmoore. A job coach at the school helped Lindsey get into the School-to-Work program, which in turn led to her gaining valuable skills, and her job with DRTC.

“Oh, yeah, I enjoy it. I’m an independent person. I’m always busy and hectic. If I need help I ask and get it. I get paid on the 15th and the 31st, and I save up my money, or I buy CDs and DVDs. I love Disney and Nickelodeon movies,” she says.

She’s also a fierce competitor, playing on a bocce ball league, and competing in the Special Olympics in basketball and swimming. “My stroke is freestyle. And breaststroke,” she says. Lindsey plays bocce in Norman and Stillwater. In basketball, she’s a guard. When asked if she’s good, she replies with the confidence of a seasoned athlete: “Yes.”

Lindsey smiling while wearing two ribbons from competing in Special Olympics Oklahoma.

At DRTC, Linsdey is the president-elect of Happy Trails Civitan Club, which meets every Thursday night to plan fundraisers and give back to the community. “Awhile back we raised money to help people with self-advocacy,” Lindsey says.

When she thinks about the future, she says some day she will progress to working at a job in the community.

Dale Rogers Training Center (DRTC) is the oldest and largest community vocational training and employment center for people with disabilities in Oklahoma. With multiple locations in Oklahoma, DRTC trains or employs approximately 1,000 people with disabilities per year. Visit us online: DRTC.org.

Success stories: Emily

Like many women, Emily Stone loves pretty clothes, sparkly jewels and spending time with her friends. “She’s extremely social, and that’s something people don’t always realize,” says her mother Genie Stone. “She does not talk, but she does use her voice, for example if something makes her happy, she’ll squeal. She can understand you and carry on a conversation if you ask her yes or no questions.”

Emily, now 46, has been coming to DRTC for more than 20 years, and spends her days accomplishing tasks and socializing with friends she’s known since grade school. With a little assistance, Emily and the rest of her friends in the Special Needs Program participate in paid vocational training/subcontract work, learn job skills, exercise, enjoy leisure activities and take community field trips.

Emily at the Weather Museum's weather wall interactive exhibit with a prepopulated weather map behind her.
Emily

In grade school, Emily spent about a year in a mainstream program, but her mom said it didn’t work out that well. “She was maybe 10 or 11 when she and one other child spent time in a first-grade classroom, but it was more for socialization. She also had speech therapy and physical therapy, but she didn’t learn to read. She does know some sight words, but schools really weren’t teaching special needs kids to read back then,” Genie says.

When it came time to graduate, options for much beyond staying home with mom all day were few and far between. DRTC soon launched its Special Needs Program, and Emily’s mom got her registered. Her schoolmates Patty, Jason, Kenny and Heath also joined the program and their community blossomed.

Emily and her mom, Genie, on the Dale Rogers Awards floor. Genie is smiling, looking at Emily. Emily is smiling, looking forward. She has a trophy on her lap.
Emily and Genie

Genie’s voice wavers as she thinks back to those days. “I don’t know what we would have done without DRTC. Not so much for us but for her. We were all just trying to care for our kids, and we’re all still taking care of our children. DRTC has been a lifesaver for us. I don’t think Emily would be 46 if she hadn’t had DRTC. She never wants to miss, she loves her friends, and it just would have been really rough to not have had that. It’s a lifesaver for us.”

Dale Rogers Training Center (DRTC) is the oldest and largest community vocational training and employment center for people with disabilities in Oklahoma. With multiple locations in Oklahoma, DRTC trains or employs approximately 1,000 people with disabilities per year. Visit us online: DRTC.org.

Success stories: Jacklyn

Jacklyn McDaniel is an energetic young woman and an enthusiastic grocery sacker at Crest Foods grocery store in Midwest City. She’s also a creative soul, an aspiring writer who spends her free time working on her Disney-inspired fiction project “Snow Rose and the Beast,” and an artist whose illustration was selected for the 2016 Dale Rogers Training Center holiday card.

“I started at Dale Rogers Training Center as a newbie. I didn’t know where to sit, I didn’t know anything. I sat at an empty table and here came Dustin. He said, ‘Hey, what’s your name?’ Then I began to learn, little by little. (DRTC) helped me a lot. I like to work. Working inspires me to work!” Jacklyn says.

From March 2015 to November 2016, Jackie was a part of the Vocational Services Program , and participated in the Crest training program during her time at DRTC. She later sought job assistance through DRTC’s Employment Services Program, landing a job with Crest in 2017, where she shares a nearby home with her parents. Jackie moved to long-term stabilization through DDS until Feb. 2019, when her DRTC case was closed for successful completion. DRTC can/will provide support should Jackie need it in future.

She now confidently earns her own paycheck, doing a job she loves, which allows her to help her parents with bills, which makes her extremely proud. “I’m not going to spend my money on useless things. I like to help my parents.”

Jacklyn’s tasks at work include sacking groceries and helping customers take them to the car, as well as some cleaning and light stocking chores to make sure her area is work-ready. “Shirley, my manager, and about five ladies worked with me every day to be less stressed, focus on the job, and always have a smile on my face,” she says.

Jacklyn holding two paper grocery sacks and looking to her right.
Jacklyn

“Say you want your bags light. I’ll put five, maybe six items in the bag. But if you say very light, I’ll but more like three or four items,” Jacklyn says. “I just learn, little by little. We aren’t stupid, we just have a hard time learning sometimes.”

Jacklyn, like most of us, identifies with what she does for a living, and her work is meaningful. Theresa Flannery, Community Resources and Compliance Director for Dale Rogers Training Center, says that’s exactly as it should be. “Jacklyn is a very young woman. She’s being given the opportunity to think about her life beyond just living with her mom. DRTC gave her the opportunity to do paid work. Crest hired her, and that allows her to keep growing.”

Disability is no longer the kind of barrier it once was. “People aren’t bad, but they sometimes don’t know how to integrate people who are different from them. Without these kinds of opportunities, without Dale Rogers, the only option for people like Jacklyn was to stay home,” Flannery says.

Instead, today, Jacklyn is flourishing, a fact that makes Flannery smile. “What I love about Jacklyn is her independence, her confidence in pushing boundaries, her creativity and her vision. She’s got so many opportunities ahead of her and we’re excited to see her grow.”

Jacklyn smiling while sacking rice at Crest.

Dale Rogers Training Center (DRTC) is the oldest and largest community vocational training and employment center for people with disabilities in Oklahoma. With multiple locations in Oklahoma, DRTC trains or employs approximately 1,000 people with disabilities per year. Visit us online: DRTC.org.