Success Stories


Connecting the Dots: Why Partnerships Are Crucial

In a recent push to help clients in the northwest portion of the state, GVRA is proactively identifying and interacting with key regional employers. Denine Woodson, Director of Sensory Services, identified Aramark’s Ricky Hames—who runs Berry College’s food services—as a key regional employer for the Deaf in the Rome/Floyd county area. This comes on the heels of Ricky’s success with GVRA client, Donna Southerland.
Read more here.



Crocodile Careers

Justin Smith was never scared of snakes, but being unafraid doesn’t mean he’s unaware of their danger. “I’m cautious around venomous snakes,” he said. But that hasn’t stopped him from handling them and hasn’t stopped him from learning all he can about them. Justin currently works as an animal keeper at the Okefenokee Swamp Park while he finishes up his degree in biological sciences from the College of Coastal Georgia. Read more here.

Never Backing Down

Joshua Williams is undaunted by challenges. As someone who, because of his cerebral palsy and cortical visual impairment, has required full care since infancy, he knows a few things about facing adversity. Being an individual who requires someone to shower, dress and transport him, as well as assist him with accommodations regarding studying, reading, writing and typing (among many other activities), he wholeheartedly appreciates the assistance and wants to make the most of his talents. He wants to give back and contribute to society. Read more here.

Inspiring Others Who Came After

Jan and Ernest Taylor had been in their Newnan home for only a few days when their middle child Emily became sick. She had an ear infection, not uncommon for a two year old, and while Emily was feverish and oddly pale, no one found her symptoms especially alarming. After a brief examination, a local pediatrician sent the family home with a prescription for an antibiotic and an appointment for a follow up visit the next week. Read more here.

Always Moving Forward

Children become independent in different ways and at different times. Just ask a parent. It can seem that one day, they’re in a car seat, and the next, they’re asking to borrow the car. And sometimes, depending on the kid, they go halfway around the world for the summer to study physics. Read more here.

Behind the Machines

When Cole Allen was in high school, sometimes his friends would go places his power chair—and as a result, he himself—couldn’t. The woods for a campfire. A house with stairs to the entrance. Read more here.

From Client to CA

When you walk into the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (GVRA) office in Columbus on any given day, you might find Counselor Assistant Walker Green compiling records, gathering client information or explaining to a family what to expect from the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) process. Professional, thorough and responsible, Walker is a true believer in the ability of the right supports to change a person’s future trajectory. Read more here. 

Root, Root, Root for the Bravos

Katie Hearn recently changed offices, just down the hall from her old office. As a rule, change for anyone can take a quick second to adjust. In Katie’s case though, the change required a little more than simply hanging art on the walls and getting office supplies organized. Read more here.

Cracking the Code to Success: A Conversation With Susan Jolly

Susan Jolly is the Chief of Staff for the VP of the Digital Services Group at T-Mobile. She’s also a technologist, mentor, and mother who’s spent her career as an individual with a disability. Read more here.

AWT Helps Client with ALS Keep Her Job

Pam Grayboff analyzes data to identify business opportunities for hotels. She reviews data sets, creates charts and graphs, and communicates her findings to others via webinars and reports. A few years ago, she was diagnosed with ALS. Read more here.

Cloudy With a Chance of Success

Dylan Smith has always been fascinated by what others fear—major storms. As a child, he watched storms roll in wondering how they worked and why they came. Smith’s childhood curiosity eventually turned into a lifelong dream to become a meteorologist. With AWT, Smith gained the tools needed to work through his learning disability and accomplish his goals. Read more here.

Overcoming Doubt to Showcase Ability

Gordon Mitchell has spent his life facing tough challenges that could threaten his success if he weren't a fighter. Gordon has cerebral palsy and wanted to help others learn how to live healthfully. Along the way, he overcame several issues and is now preparing for the Dietetic Technician's exam. Read more here.

Living the American Dream

For Andrew Stewart moving to the US meant starting over. After years of being overlooked due to his disability, he simply wanted a chance to prove that he could adapt and live independently. He found that chance in Savannah, Ga where he enrolled in the Royce Learning Center and began working with Savannah's VR.
Read more here.

Sharing Lessons Learned

When Kennedy Cobble was 14, she was diagnosed with bone cancer. That same year—2006—her tailbone was removed, and a series of reconstructive surgeries soon followed. The treatments were a success until they weren’t, remission followed by reemergence of the disease followed by treatment followed by remission. On the whole, she would be diagnosed and beat cancer four separate times, the disease and the treatments ultimately leaving her partially paralyzed in both of her feet. She spent her early high school years in and out of hospitals and in physical therapy learning how to walk again.
Read more here.

What Happens After the Game

Mecole Hardman is a popular man with the kids at Friends Helping Friends, but it’s not for the reasons one would think. They don’t care that he can run a 4.42 second forty-yard dash. They don’t care that he played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, and they don’t care that he’s been described as the top athlete in this year’s recruiting class. They just like that he’s nice and fun to be around, and for them, that’s enough.
Read his entire story here.

From Doubt to Success

Tekela Thomas started work at the Georgia School for the Deaf in early January this year, and already she’s thinking about a career change. Sort of.
Read her entire story here.

1,684 Miles, a Computer and a Job

Hernando DelaCruz was born in Barranquilla, Colombia, a village in the northwest corner of the country and near the Caribbean Sea. That’s where his journey started. Seven years removed and 1,684 miles away from Barranquilla, DelaCruz has made a new home in Georgia’s capitol city. Like all journeys, this one had its share of unique challenges. DelaCruz was born with cerebral palsy, a permanent movement disorder that can lead to problems with muscle control, but he knew one surefire way to continue along his path toward where he wanted to go: knowledge.
Read his full story here.

Figuring it out

Kimberly Blue is an administrative assistant at Cole Electric in Atlanta, a position she’s held for more than four months. Her job duties are typical for the position: making copies, organizing paperwork and, largely, answering and transferring phone calls. This wouldn’t have been a job Kimberly could have held prior to her time with Vocational Rehabilitation.
Read her full story here.

The Courage to Keep Going

Jameisha Burden is a 22-year-old participant in Easter Seals’ West Georgia’s Supported Employment program. She was referred by GVRA on September 13 of last year. Jameisha has spent the last four years trying to gain meaningful employment.
Read her full story here.

Gaining Confidence One Cut at a Time

Keyvis Russell was born deaf, and because of that, when he’s working at Visio Hair Salon in Rome he can’t hear the bell on the door announcing a new customer. He can’t hear the buzz of the clippers when they’re in his hand, and he can’t talk to his supervisor because his supervisor doesn’t speak American Sign Language.
Read more here.

GVRA Helps a Young Attorney Hit the Road

There’s an old adage that the wheels of government turn slowly. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When decisions are made that affect the population at large or involve taxpayer dollars, it’s important that the decision makers weigh the options carefully.

But sometimes, time isn’t a luxury. In October of last year, Matt Cavedon was in a car accident. Matt, a 2015 graduate of Emory Law School who now clerks for U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, travelled a lot for work. Without a car, he couldn’t do his job, which requires that drive all the way from Waycross to Savannah.
Read more here.

Getting to (Wood) Work

Burt Petley began his path to employment in a sheltered workshop in 2007, where he did packaging and sorting tasks. Burt’s fellow participants and supervisors said he was dependable and with the support of his sister, Christie, Burt had reliable transportation. While Burt sometimes had difficulty with decision-making, repetitive tasks were an area where he excelled.
Read more here.

Overcoming Barriers

By CRC Frenche Wilkerson
When people think about the word barrier, they often think it’s a stopping point. No way past. Time to turn around. But GVRA client David Frazier didn’t see it this way. To him, it was a challenge to overcome. Newly released from prison, David walked into the Savannah Vocational Rehabilitation office ready and eager to move forward with a new career, but he wasn’t sure he was in the right place. Initially, he was unaware of the particulars of the program, but he was assured that he was in good hands and that he should trust in the process.
Read more here.

With a Little Help

By Team Lead Janice Withrow and CRC Krystle Davis
Peter Howell is a previous VR client successfully employed through employment supports. The efforts to help Mr. Howell succeed include counseling and guidance, job readiness, job search assistance and incidental services, all done under the umbrella of the the Griffin VR office. Mr. Howell first came to VR expressing interest in contributing to his family, and the way to do this was through full-time employment.
Read more here.

GVRA Staff Members

100 Years of VR Employee Recognition Series: Lauri Tuten

Lauri Tuten is a Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Veteran who has devoted almost 28 years of her career to state service.  She began working with the State of Georgia in 1992, working at the Department of Family and Children’s Services and the Department of Community Affairs.  In 1997, she accepted a position with VR and remembers “the minute I got into VR, I knew that’s what I wanted to do – it’s fascinating to me.”  While working as a counselor, with support from the agency, she earned her Master’s in Rehabilitation Counseling and her CRC in 2002. 
Read more here.

Amy Layton Helps Change Lives

Amy Layton is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor who came to GVRA over 19 years ago from what was then the Georgia Department of Mental Health. Amy helps teenagers with disabilities in three Rome-area high schools, preparing them to transition from school into the employment world. 
Read more here.

A VR Veteran Shares His Inspiration

 "Let's face it - I am not here for the money; I love what I do.  And I don't sugarcoat my statements."   Scott Dekowski is a Rehabilitation Blindness Specialty Counselor serving Dublin, Savannah, and surrounding areas.  He's blunt; he's honest, and he's intense about his job, repeating that he went into this profession because he wanted to help people.  
Read more here.

GVRA Has a Friend in Ken

Ken Armstrong is a study of contradictions. He is a Customer Care Specialist and a published poet, though he wanted to be a Marine.  He is a volcano of words and ideas, yet he listens - and listens closely.   He mentioned his bad temper, but I only heard kindness.  And, last but not least, he is visually impaired – and yet he sees the infinite possibilities for helping GVRA’s clients.
Read more here.

Celeste Harris: A Great Catch for VR

Celeste Harris, Service Area Manager for VR, loves fishing and Vocational Rehabilitation - but not necessarily in that order.
Read more here.