NOTE: 2020 is the 100th anniversary of the Vocational Rehabilitation Program.
Vocational rehabilitation helps student gain confidence and discover passion for public speaking
By Missouri Vocational Rehabilitation
(part of the Adult Learning & Rehabilitation Services, Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education)
Kelsey Redding wasn’t sure if Missouri’s vocational rehabilitation was right for her when she first became aware of the program. She had been going through a difficult time in her life, living first with a friend and then with a married couple who worked as teachers at her high school. She had no confidence she would even be able to get a job.
However, Kelsey persisted and participated in a VR work experience during the summer between her junior and senior years at East Carter High School in Ellsinore, Missouri. She started out as a shelf stocker at a Town & Country grocery store then moved up to working as a checker.
“Having a job felt really good,” she said, “especially saving money up for a car.”
The summer work experiences paid for by Missouri VR allow young individuals the chance to understand what it’s like to be employed and how they might use employment to envision a brighter future.
For Kelsey, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, the experience continued on past the summer.
“The great thing was that as soon as I was done with the program, the manager asked me to come work for him,” she said. “I kept that job for over a year.”
Another experience that helped boost Kelsey’s confidence was her involvement in the Missouri Youth Leadership Forum, a career-development conference for students with disabilities. She initially participated as a delegate but then reapplied the following year and served as a facilitator who spoke to groups of students. Kelsey said she has always enjoyed public speaking and rarely gets nervous anymore.
Both of these successes in her life helped propel her to test out of special education services for her senior year of high school. She has since graduated and is currently a full-time student at Three Rivers College in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. She also works as a resident adviser on campus.
While she is realistic about her career goals, her dream job is to become a motivational speaker.
“I like telling an interesting story and letting people know that, even if you’re going through a rough time, you can make it,” she said. “Just look at me.”
Kelsey Redding’s story was originally published online in January 2020 in the Missouri State Rehabilitation Council 2019 Annual Report.
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