By Hillary Jackson and Jeff Saulich, Special to the Democrat, Tallahassee Democrat, Oct 29, 2012
MIAMI — Yaneris Alonso is a 25-year-old woman who dreams big and has the courage to make her dreams a reality.
After facing a personal tragedy involving the loss of her mother and brother, Alonso decided to focus on her future and that of her young daughter. Within two years, the Miami woman obtained a GED and a vocational certificate, completed an internship and secured full-time employment in a Miami hospital.
Alonso has a developmental disability and receives services from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, when APD and other state agencies highlight Floridians with disabilities who are successfully employed in their communities.
At the end of 2010, Alonso wanted to improve her life and spelled out her objectives very clearly. They included obtaining a GED, going to school and getting a job. With the assistance of Luis Blandon, her supported living coach who is funded by APD, Alonso enrolled in GED classes at Lindsey Hopkins Technical Education Center in Miami.
The counselor there told her about other options and explained that Alonso was qualified to enter the dietary aid program, which would allow her to learn a trade quickly and build a foundation for the discipline necessary to study for the GED. Alonso considered this option carefully and decided to give it try.
Alonso woke up early, went to classes every day, did her homework and studied very hard for her tests.
She graduated in December 2011, completed an internship at Palm Springs General Hospital in Hialeah and earned her certificate in nutrition and dietetic services.
With certificate in hand, Alonso landed a job in the Food and Nutrition Department of the University of Miami Hospital.
“I feel very proud and happy to have a job,” Alonso says. “I had been looking for a job for a long time and I was about to give up, but something told me to keep going and finally they called me.”
As a trayline worker, Alonso performs a variety of duties including preparing the food trays and serving meals to hospital patients. She enjoys taking the skills she acquired in school, putting them into practice and earning money for it.
“My job makes me feel very proud that I am doing something good for me,” says Alonso.
Her supervisor, Stefanie Thompson, says Alonso pays attention to details, always has a positive attitude at work and is very sociable and compassionate with the patients.
Thompson says that Alonso excels at her duties and that hiring her was a good decision.
“This has been a very positive experience for Yaneris, because it has helped her gain self-confidence and she feels very valued,” says Blandon. “Her self-esteem was very low, but going to work and having a purpose has changed her life for the better.”
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 1-866-273-2273.