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October 15, 2012
Melanie Mowry Etters
All She Needed Was a Chance
By Jeff Saulich
Miami - Anastacia McLoud wanted a job. As a 22-year-old, the Florida City woman had the same dilemma that other young job seekers face—she needed experience to get a job, but needed a job to get experience. Unlike her competitors in the job market, McLoud's developmental disability unfortunately decreased her odds of being hired. However, due to an innovative internship program, now she is happily employed by Baptist Health South Florida (BHSF).
McLoud receives services from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) and received job coaching services during her internship from the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR). This is Disability Employment Awareness Month, when APD, VR, and other state agencies highlight Floridians with disabilities who are successfully employed in their communities.
McLoud was one of about a dozen participants in an internship program sponsored by the Miami-Dade EmployAbility Network (MDEAN). The program reimburses businesses for the cost of hiring an intern with a disability. This provides the employer and the prospective employee a risk-free way to try each other out. The fixed-term internships frequently lead to full-time employment.
Such was the case for McLoud. After completing her internship earlier this year in BHSF's dining services department, she was offered a permanent position there. She enjoys making salads, prepping food, and arranging food trays. And she impresses her colleagues with her ability to concentrate on the task at hand, regardless of the distractions around her.
"Anastacia is very productive," says Stan Hodes, executive chef and manager of production operations. "She has embraced our mission and vision in the department. Her employment here reflects her ability to fit in, to be accepted, and to really come into her own in terms of being productive. She's an important part of our department."
McLoud understands the difficulties involved in finding work, perhaps more than most. So she is quick to express her gratitude to her mentor and supervisor—the employer who gave her a chance.
"I want to say to Stan Hodes, thank you for everything," McLoud says. "Thank you for your patience and for teaching me. Thank you for showing me the right way. Words could never describe how I feel toward Stan and his employees."
APD supports people with developmental disabilities to live, learn, and work in their communities. The agency annually serves more than 50,000 Floridians with autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, intellectual disabilities, Down syndrome, and Prader-Willi syndrome. For more information about the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, visit APDcares.org or call toll-free 1-866-APD-CARES (1-866-273-2273).