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Success Stories

Judy Stokes

Judy StokesEast Texas resident Judy Stokes was used to looking after others in her career as a home health care worker .

However, the role of care giver can be physically challenging . Eventually, Judy sustained a serious knee injury that required her to stop working in order to do physical therapy and recover .

As she remembers those times, it was Judy’s determination, and the right support from her Nacogdoches community that came together when she most needed it .

“When I experienced my knee injury, I didn’t bounce back like I thought I would . I couldn’t stand more than a few minutes and couldn’t walk very far,” she recalls . “I even broke down and used a motorized cart at the grocery store . So, there I was I couldn’t go back to what I was doing .”

Judy’s church, family and friends lent support during this time, but not having an income was taking a toll her and her family . “I hadn’t worked in over a year and I was surviving not thriving . I was behind on some bills,” she said . “My self-esteem was

low, my confidence was low and I began to struggle with depression.”

She knew it was time for a change and to make the needed transition to another career, Judy turned again to her community .

Judy reached out to Love Inc. Nacogdoches for financial assistance. Love Inc. listened to her story and made a referral to Texas Workforce Solutions-Vocational Rehabilitation Services, and to Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Christina Ward who had just met with Christian Women’s Job Corps (CWJC) .

“I had to reinvent myself . And I couldn’t do that alone – I needed help and if it wasn’t for the help I received I wouldn’t have been able to take the job I have now,” she shared . “When I was given Christina’s number, I knew that a door was about to open .”

Judy’s passion for giving back and volunteering often in her Nacogdoches community made her a perfect candidate to place in the Christian Women’s Job Corps (CWJC) . Through the Texas Workforce Solutions- Vocational Rehabilitation Services Paid Work Experience (PWE) program, she received an income while training, building skills and confidence in preparation for full-time employment .

In December 2020, Judy began her paid work experience program as an Administrative Assistant at CWJC . Her job duties included answering telephones, data entry and filing records. Judy did so well that CWJC was eager to train her in additional areas .

“Judy’s progress was impressive, and she was approved for two additional 12-week paid work experiences at CWJC, which allowed her to continue to expand her skills, such as accounting software like Quick Books and Excel, using a 10- key calculator, among others, which were aligned with her new employment goal of bookkeeping,” said her VR Counselor Christina Ward .

“It was life-changing,” said Judy . “If it weren’t for this I would be sitting around my house and feeling I had nothing to give society .”

As her confidence has grown, Judy knows she is on the path that was meant for her. She credits her faith and is thankful to
God for her success .

“As a Christian, I believe that God answered my prayers and was the one who opened doors for me to be where I am today . I am very thankful for all who were a part of helping me overcome the struggles and reach new success, but I don’t for a second believe it would have happened without God .”

In Sept . 2021, Judy began full-time employment at Pathways Forensic & Mental Health Services as a receptionist . She is excited to be employed in a position where she is back to helping people .

“In my new position, sometimes I’m the first point of contact for patients through scheduling appointments and intake such as sign-in for group therapies . I take payments and send them a new patient packet and I’m also learning to process paperwork . I do a lot of little jobs that help keep the business running,” she says .

Reflecting on the last two years, Judy said, “I’m really thankful that through the community partnerships of Vocational Rehabilitation Services, Love Inc . and Community Action, it all led me to where I am now . They really helped build me back up .”

Bennett Propels His Future as He Gains Confidence
and Job Skills

Bennett Rhymes is motivated to keep building his employment skills, even as he hits the books and starts his college years . He’s majoring in game design and is supported at school by his Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC) Jeana and a learning specialist to help him navigate college .

As Bennett focuses on college, he credits the support of his family and his experience with VR for setting him up for success .

Bennett participated in in Pre-Employment Transition Services through Texas Workforce Solutions-Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Services, including a paid work experience at CVS Health® .

“For me, personally I have improved, started to make a lot more active efforts to improve myself as a person and I think starting at the Workforce was one of the big things,” said Bennett . I’ve started journaling every day and things like that, so I think you can use that momentum to really propel your life .”

Bennett’s mom Jessica Taylor discovered VR Services when talking to a friend who has a son with disabilities . She reached out to VRC Jeana Chen who has supported Bennett throughout his time receiving VR Services .

“When he became a teenager, it became clear to me that there was something definitely a little bit different about Bennett, so we had him tested, and he was diagnosed with high-functioning autism, what a lot of people know as Asperger’s,” said Jessica . As a mom you have worries, how is this going to work? How is my child going to be successful in school? How far can they go? How will they start their first job? How will that go? How can I support them, but still let them fly?”

Jeana arranged for Bennett to participate in three pre-employment transition activities, including work readiness, self- advocacy, and a career exploration STEM camp . Jeana saw Bennett’s steady improvement and encouraged him to take the next step . It didn’t take long before Bennett’s drive to improve and learn new things eventually landed him a job with CVS Health.

“At CVS, he had a coach and three other students he was working with, and I remember reading the coaching notes, and he was doing progressively well every week, and by the end of 12 weeks I knew he could work independently,” said Jeana .

Upon finishing the paid work experience, Bennett applied and was hired for a position at a CVS store in Spring, and during the summer applied the skills he learned as a store associate . He says working with customers is his favorite part of the day. “After the first or second semester I’ll probably look for a job, hopefully at CVS, they’ve been very kind to me.”

Bennett encourages others to participate in Vocational Rehabilitation Services to propel their futures .

Through the collaboration between CVS Health® and TWC’s Vocational Rehabilitation, many students with disabilities have gained work experience, and earn wages that lead to greater independence, while also feeling more connected to their communities .

“We’ve hosted hundreds of participants who have come through these doors and really just changed the lives of our store managers, our assistant managers, everyone . Not to mention the impact it’s had on families and participants who have come through the program,” said Yani Hurst, CVS Health Workforce Initiatives Department Senior Manager

(L to R): Yani Hurst, CVS Health Workforce Initiatives Department, Senior Manager; Sam Gay, CVS Health Store Manager; Sharon Correa, CVS Health Workforce Initiatives, Manager: Bennett Rhymes, CVS Health Store Associate, Eliza Charles, CVS Health Workforce Initiatives Associate Manager(L to R): Yani Hurst, CVS Health Workforce Initiatives Department, Senior Manager; Sam Gay, CVS Health Store Manager; Sharon Correa, CVS Health Workforce Initiatives, Manager: Bennett Rhymes, CVS Health Store Associate, Eliza Charles, CVS Health Workforce Initiatives Associate Manager.

(L to R) Bennet Rhymes, Jeana Chen(L to R): Jeana Chen, Texas Workforce Solutions-Vocational Rehabilitation Services VR Counselor and Bennett Rhymes, Vocational Rehabilitation participant and CVS Health Store Associate .


Tanner Key Lands His Dream Job:

For Tanner Key, it’s his dream job to be working at H-E-B.

When Tanner’s mom, Aimee Cline, was asked how Tanner likes his job she said “He loves his job and comes home from work with a smile on his face,” says Aimee. “At H-E-B, he is welcomed and supported – H-E-B is the absolute best

employer. The management is wonderful, Justin (Tanner’s supervisor) is especially amazing. There are no words to express how happy Tanner is with his dream job! We’re so thankful for this opportunity!”

Tanner’s Mom Aimee sought the support of Texas Workforce Solutions-Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Services after Tanner’s participation in VR during high school. Tanner received a CPA (Career Planning Assessment) in April 2022 and then was referred to VR provider Bloom Consulting for Supported Employment services, which provides individuals with disabilities with vocational rehabilitation services such as training, job development, and job coaching. Janna Redding, a Supported Employment Specialist, quickly learned that Tanner had a dream of working at HEB and helped Tanner to make his dream come true.

Tanner set his sights on his employment goal, and his hard work paid off when he was offered a position as a Customer Support Specialist this past spring at an H-E-B in Round Rock.

Although H-E-B’s policy is for all entry level positions to be interviewed in a group setting, this would not allow Tanner to have the support he would need to interview. Janna helped Tanner apply for his position at HEB through the online system

Indeed and assisted Tanner in asking for an accommodation for his interview. Tanner requested he have a one-on-one interview with a manager as an accommodation based on his disability. H-E-B granted this accommodation request and Janna supported Tanner through his interview process.

Bloom Consulting has continued to provide Supported Employment services for Tanner throughout his employment with H-E-B, which includes help with onboarding, supports to allow him to learn his job skills through job coaching, and regular check-ins to receive feedback from his supervisors and developing natural supports on the job.

The managers at HEB love him and praise him for always being early and showing up when he is scheduled. Tanner is on track to have a successful completion to his Vocational Rehabilitation Services in the new year.

Thanks to the team of vocational rehabilitation professionals supporting Tanner, he is proving his abilities and enjoys a work environment at H-E-B that helps him fulfill his career potential.

Tanner Key: H-E-B Customer Support SpecialistTanner Key: H-E-B Customer Support Specialist

Through Supported Employment services, Tanner is completing a successful job placement with H-E-B in Round Rock, where he helps customers with carrying and unloading their groceries, helps stock shelves, picks up trash, returns products to shelves, among other tasks as needed.