Success stories: Craig

Craig Parr is a tall, strapping young man with a smile as big as his heart. On this day he sits next to his mom Theresa, with his arm around her, as he patiently poses for photos and answers questions. He’s a little nervous at all the attention, though, and his mom quietly reminds him to relax. He responds with a smile and a kiss on her cheek.

Craig, on the right, kisses his mom, Teresa, on the cheek.
Teresa and Craig

At 18 years old, Craig attends high school and is taking a course on small engine repair at Francis Tuttle. His relationship with DRTC began at Camp Tumbleweed, which he attended for three summers. The Camp’s grounds are on the DRTC campus. Campers, aged 14-21, have fun, work on self-advocacy skills, enjoy arts & crafts and take a variety of field trips. Craig’s favorite? “Harkins Theatre,” he says unequivocally.  Equally unwavering is his popcorn preference. “Salt and butter,” he says.

In addition to Camp Tumbleweed, Craig participated in DRTC’s Transition School-To-Work program, which was the next step in his school’s special ed program. He’s proud to announce that he’s just gotten his learner’s permit, which his mom acknowledges like all moms do, with a slightly nervous smile.

Craig giving a thumbs up while standing next to a fire engine.

“Craig’s self-advocacy has really become stronger since he’s been a part of DRTC,” Teresa says. “The training here really encourages them to tell someone when something isn’t right and how to (act) at a job. He’s made so many friends. He loves everyone, and he loves being here.”

This is Craig’s senior year, and one of the highlights of high school has been his career with ROTC. He’s an officer and a member of the Color Guard. “I like ROTC. We get to do fun things,” he says. His training shows. Craig is a confident, polite young man with a great sense of humor. Bowling with the Special Olympics in a special needs league is another favorite pastime, and he also likes to volunteer with other nonprofit organizations through DRTC.

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: 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.