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Click on the images for the stories coming from students and associates.
Amir Rahimi - CORE Graduate
Amir says his favorite part of the job is helping people with disabilities "be independent and live the lives they want to live."
Qualik Ford - 2018 Work to Independence Graduate
Building confidence does not come from repeating the same routine but from having new experiences and taking new approaches that may not always be easy. I learned this lesson this past summer in the Work To Independence program.
Kim Utley - BSC Manager
Kimberly states that she owes her success to those who saw her willingness to be more and make more of what life had intended for her.
Amir Rahimi is a natural born storyteller. Although he once planned to be a patent lawyer, it's hard to imagine a career field better suited to his open, friendly personality than the one he's currently in — public relations. As the communications manager for the ENDependence Center of Northern Virginia, Inc. (ECNV), a community resource and advocacy center run by and for people with disabilities, his job entails many behind-the-scenes activities such as managing social media accounts, maintaining the center's website and writing press releases, as well as some development and fundraising work. He says his favorite part of the job is helping people with disabilities "be independent and live the lives they want to live."
Amir, a Maryland native who now lives in Arlington, VA, became blind in 2009 as the result of a fall during his senior year at the University of Maryland, College Park. After graduation, he attended the year-long CORE training program at Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM) in Baltimore, where he took classes in independent living, white cane travel, braille, and assistive technology. The intensive, residential program included tasks such as cooking a three-course meal for 40 people and navigating a ten-day solo trip to Miami. Due to his time at BISM and an internship with the American Association of People with Disabilities, Amir became involved in the disability community and met people with disabilities working in a variety of fields, including engineering, medicine and business. "I learned there were other things I could do besides be a lawyer," he says. This revelation led him to ECNV, where he has worked since early 2016. "Seeing the difference ECNV makes in people's lives, that my colleagues make — helping people with disabilities find employment and housing and live independently — it makes me happy. That's what I love about my job."
The below article was written by Qualik for the BISM Grapevine
Building confidence does not come from repeating the same routine but from having new experiences and taking new approaches that may not always be easy. I learned this lesson this past summer in the Work To Independence program. I was surrounded by intelligent staff, who also happened to be blind. When I struggled, they taught me ways to work through my problems. Staff members led by example and had high expectations for me because they knew I could accomplish any task I set my mind to.
While at Work To Independence, I had the opportunity to overcome my fear of flying (we flew to Orlando for the NFB Convention) and learned that I enjoy being creative in the kitchen.
The close bonds I formed with fellow students comprised my favorite aspect of the program. My new friends and I made many memories that will last a lifetime. From water fights to listening to music and talking for hours, we continued to grow closer throughout the summer. The staff became were more than instructors, they were also my mentors and friends. I had wished to attend the NFB Convention for many years and I took full advantage of the experience. Volunteering, networking, and attending meetings all gave me opportunities to learn of the blind community’s mark on the world.
I cannot wait to impact the world and others! I now have the confidence and skills to succeed, and I have the Work To Independence program to thank for molding me into a better version of myself.
Kimberly Utley is the store manager of BISM’s Dover Air Force Base AbilityOne Base Supply Center. In 1988, she was attending a local community college as a student nurse and working two jobs. In late November of that year, she was involved in a near fatal car accident that left her visually impaired. However, that did not stop Kimberly from doing the things she wanted to do in life.
Moving forward, she sought the resources of the State of Delaware Division for the Visually Impaired, where she learned skills that would help her remain as independent in day-to-day life. She eventually married, had two children and returned to college where she obtained a diploma in medical transcription. After many job interviews, Kimberly interviewed for a retail position at a newly built facility known as the Dover Air Force Base AbilityOne Base Supply Center, a division of BISM. She was brought in as an associate in training in November 1997 and after successful completion of the training program was hired as a retail associate in March 1998. In 2001, Kimberly was promoted to assistant manager and, in 2004, she was promoted to store manager.
Kimberly states that she owes her success to those who saw her willingness to be more and make more of what life had intended for her. “The encouraging words of wisdom from many individuals during my years with Blind Industries and Services of Maryland have continued to provide an avenue for me to remain independent and a contributing member of society.”