Though Jackie was born without the ability to see, you can’t accuse her of not having vision. The Central Kentuckian has clear goals and a determined spirit.
Jackie attended the Kentucky School for the Blind from age five through her senior year of high school, and she worked through correspondence with her hometown high school to earn her diploma.
“I actually got to graduate twice—from the School for the Blind and from my county high school,” said Jackie. “I’m really proud of being able to walk in the line at my hometown graduation.”
At the School for the Blind, Jackie gained volunteer work experience in the school’s laundry room and at several nearby restaurants, and she began volunteering at Goodwill through a school-to-work program during her weekends at home. During that time, she began receiving services through Tri-Generations, an organization that provides residential and employment support for Kentuckians with disabilities. Jackie transitioned into supported employment services, and Goodwill hired her as a paid employee in April 2008.
“I’ve seen a big difference in her self-confidence, patience, and her sense of belonging. She is part of a team there,” said Lisa Sopha of Tri-Generations. “Goodwill has really given her opportunities to increase her skills. Now she’s even interested in working the cash register.”
Jackie’s time card at Goodwill is marked with a sticker so she can easily identify it and clock in and out of work without assistance. Her job coach attends work with her and is there for support if needed, but Jackie has learned to enter and exit the building on her own.
“I like being able to earn money,” said Jackie. “I’ve been able to save for and take a trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and I pay for my own clothes and jewelry.”
Goodwill center manager Donna Rodgers says that Jackie’s positive attitude in the workplace is an inspiration.
“If I’m having a bad day, all I have to do is listen to Jackie singing as she works or see her smiling and laughing with her co-workers. She’s always in a good mood, and it really lifts our spirits,” said Donna.
In fact, Jackie has been known to challenge her co-workers to “hanging races” to see who can hang the most shirts in a designated amount of time. On average, Jackie hangs about 105 shirts per hour.
“I don’t like to sit and be bored,” said Jackie.
With the list of activities in which she’s involved, it’s hard to imagine that Jackie has any spare time. She is president of her county’s chapter of Kentucky Self-Advocates for Freedom and serves as the organization’s board member and secretary at the state level. She was also elected to the board of The Arc of Kentucky, an advocacy group for people with disabilities. In addition, Jackie trains Tri-Generations staff members in working with the blind, teaching them techniques such as money-folding and how to be sighted guides.
One of Jackie’s long-term goals is to have her own home and live independently. In a step towards that goal, she decided to move out of her grandmother’s house several years ago and now lives with two other people in a single-family, Tri-Generations-staffed home. She participates in a bowling league every Thursday and frequently attends concerts and plays at a local university. Jackie plays the violin and piano and loves to cook—especially desserts. She is also certified in CPR and First Aid by the American Red Cross.
“Jackie wants to be as independent as possible,” said Lisa. “Between all of her activities and her job at Goodwill, she is well on her way to achieving that goal.”