I was hanging on to life by a thread. Fall was approaching and if I tried to finish college this year, I would be starting my sixteenth year in community college. Sure, I was living in a one-bedroom apartment in a nice part of Modesto, but I was living of off less than $800 a month I received from SSI and any money I earned from my failing computer consulting and web design business. At the end of most months, I had more month left on the calendar than I had money left in my checking account. Savings account you ask? Wen you live off of SSI you cannot afford the luxury of a savings account!
I decided not to start the fall off in college, instead I knew it was time to make some changes. I had always resented and been ashamed that I received SSI. I wanted to be like everyone else, I wanted to have a good paying job!
At the time I decided I was going to get a real job, my disabilities were often invisible to the naked eye. Sure, I had a heart condition, ADHD and legally blind, but if I played my cards right no one would know about any of those during a job interview.
But the problem was that I knew they were there and I knew that jobs were scarce for anyone with a disability and it is still a obstacle for the disabled today.
According to an article on CNN money, in 2015 only 41%of disabled Americans were employed, compared to about 80% of the non-disabled population.
But I wasn’t going to let anything come between me and my dreams, I never have and my slight visual impairment (20/200 in my left eye and 20/300 in my right) was nto going to stopy me now.
The first thing I did was to set a goal!
The goal I had set for myself was to be employed by the end of year in a job that would help me reach my dream – working as a customer service representative for EarthLink in Sacramento California!
Every morning I left my apartment before 8, I took the city bus to different parts of Modesto and pounded the pavement looking for a job (this was before most places took applications online). In a one-week period I put in nearly 100 job applications!
When I didn’t get any calls for an interview, instead of being discouraged and nursing a grudge that people were discriminating against me because of my disability, I regrouped.
I remembered that earlier in my college career I was a part of a new program that had stated. Work experience for the disabled. You had to enroll in the work experience class and for every 60 hours of unpaid work, or 75 hours of paid work, you would earn one college credit/unit with a maximum of three per semester.
I wanted to sue the program to help me get a job – just one problem. I needed to be a college student.
Fortunately, there were a few classes that hadn’t started yet. I enrolled in those courses and became eligible to enroll in the work experience course.
To become enrolled in the work experience course late in the semester, I had to meet with the instructor. She was nice, but explained since I had a late start she might not be able to place me in a campus job.
I told her, “Don’t worry. I have a plan. All I need you to do is to back my plan” and I laid the plan out for her.
There was this small mom and pop like Internet company in Modesto called Netfeed. It was a place where you could bring in your computer for service that offered Internet access – and I wanted to work there answering phones and helping callers resolve their computer problems over the phone. I saw it as a good stepping stone towards my goal of working for Earthlink.
I had already made first contact with the company and talked to the manager, but I couldn’t’ seem to get any further.
I was told “We are not hiring now” but I wanted this job so badly that I dreamed about it and night and tasted it during the day.
My plan was to, with the backing of the colleges work experience program, get netfeed to hire me as a volunteer. Once I was in their door I would dazzle them so much that they would offer me a paid job!
The work experience instructor agreed, allowed me to enroll in her class, wished me the best of luck and told me to keep her updated.
I was off to convince a company to hire me when they were not hiring anyone
I called every couple of days, just to keep my name in front of them, asking if they were still considering me for a job. Telling them about how it would benefit them to hire me through the colleges work experience program that would cost them nothing (escpet signing a time slip once a month).
Finally, after about 2 weeks of calling, I got the answer I wanted. I got the job!
For the next two months I worked at Netfeed part time. I answered phones, I worked on computers and I did my fair share of being on call overnight and on weekends.
When the semester ws winding down I knew my job was about to end. Finals week had started at the college and I still was not offered a paid position with Netfeed.
I wasn’t; sure, what I was going to do. Would I work one more semester as a unpaid employee? Would I seek employment elsewhere?
Then on my birthday, while sitting at my desk in the netfeed office, the manager came out of his office and offered me a paid position.
I off course accepted it and received my first paycheck New Year’s Eve.
The first four months of the new millennium I was a paid employee of Netfeed.
A month after I and Netfeed parted ways, I was recognized at a banquet where I was presented a plaque in honor of being the 2000 co-(disabled) employee of the year by the Stanislaus County Mayor’s Committee for the employment of persons with disabilities.