CITC’s Tribal Vocational Rehab program opens doors
While trying to describe how CITC programs have affected his life, John Rogers stumbles upon the perfect tagline for the organization. “I encourage anyone who wants to change their life to come to CITC,” he said, then added: “This is a place where people succeed.”
John’s own path to success started with burnout. He had always worked physically demanding jobs in the past, including back-of-the-house positions at restaurants like Sullivan’s Steakhouse — which meant long hours on his feet. But he had lost his passion for kitchen work, and to make things worse, he’d begun suffering from chronic, progressive rheumatoid arthritis.
John was eligible for benefits because of his arthritis, but he didn’t want to stay on disability if he didn’t have to. “I needed a career change,” he explained. “I couldn’t keep standing for 40 to 50 hours a week.”
“This organization has been there for me so much in the past,” he continued. So it wasn’t a surprise that he sought help with CITC’s Tribal Vocational Rehabilitation (TVR) program, which helps Alaska Native and American Indian individuals with disabilities gain and maintain employment.
“We put participants like John into an employment plan, which outlines the services we’re able to provide,” described TVR Counselor Associate Sirena Soots. The program provides vocational rehabilitation counseling, resources from partner agencies, and benefits analysis for those who are on social security, along with many other services based on the participant’s individual needs. Once an individual has found employment, TVR also helps with making sure that the participant is able to get to and from work, has the necessary clothing or uniform, and has what is needed to do the job to the best of their ability.
“One opportunity after another has presented itself to me, and this organization is at the center of that.”
For those who needs assistive services, TVR can arrange for prosthetic or orthopedic devices, software programs to assist with dictation, screen readers, or interpreters. Recently, the program made a new DYNAwrite machine available to CITC employees; this device, which looks like a computer keyboard paired with a small screen, facilitates communication with individuals who are Deaf, non-verbal, or non-English speaking.
Between three counselors like Sirena, TVR is assisting an average of 90 participants at any given time. The services provided vary from person to person, based on each individual’s needs and situation.
For John, the program assisted with a two-year degree program in computer networking, which he completed in May this year. “John has worked very hard — he’s come a long way,” Sirena said. “We’re very proud of him and happy to see where he’s at now.”
Where is that? Back at CITC: This summer, John has been putting his IT skills to work with the Summer Internship Partner Program, through which he’s gained experience doing a little bit of everything in CITC’s IT department.
“I’ve had my hands on nearly all the computers in this building,” John estimated. “Installing peripherals, troubleshooting, configuring — you name it.” For the last three months, he’s been readying all the computers for CITC’s Child and Family Services Department, which is temporarily relocating during a remodeling project.
John’s hoping the internship can eventually lead to something more permanent. While he has plans to look for employment anywhere in the IT field, his heart is with CITC.
“There have been lots of times I came to CITC with my own needs, looking for help,” he said. “I’d like to be able to give back some of the stuff I’ve learned. One opportunity after another has presented itself to me, and this organization is at the center of that. From the bottom of my heart, I want to contribute to a winning team, and the team I want to be on is CITC.”
For more information about the TVR program, visit the department webpage.