Knowing Where to Go
Chris is one in a set of quadruplets. He was 2.2 pounds at birth and born with Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) a disease that occurs in premature babies. It causes abnormal blood vessels to grow in the retina, the layer of nerve tissue in the eye that enables us to see. This growth caused the retina to detach from the back of the eye, leading to partial blindness. Chris has lived his entire life with this severe visual impairment and the stigma that goes along with using a white cane.
Growing up Chris worked incredibly hard in school and to succeed in spite of his disability. He did well and was accepted to the University of Arizona. After 5 years he graduated with a B.S. in Psychology. Chris said “one of my biggest fears was not that I wouldn’t graduate but that I wouldn’t be able to find a job. Especially with my disability, I felt disadvantaged”. He explained “going to interviews and other job fairs I sensed that people looked at me and the cane and didn’t really take me seriously”. Chris enrolled in a program at the Southern Arizona Association for the Visually Impaired (SAAVI). Through SAAVI Chris learned of the DREAM job fair which Linkages helps to organize. At DREAM, Chris says he felt that prospective employers actually took the time to look at his resume and get to know him. He said “it’s hard to get a job when you don’t have a job, when you don’t have much experience. At DREAM several employers actually seemed like they were interested in hiring me”.
From the DREAM job fair Chris gained a second interview with H.O.P.E. Inc. and accepted a position on their Warm Line, providing peer support services and helping to deter crisis. He said “at first it was tough but now I really love it, it is very rewarding to help people”. When asked how employment has affected him, Chris replied “It has boosted my self-confidence, I feel more productive. I know a lot of tax dollars were spent on getting me here; it’s really nice to give back and contribute. I see myself as an investment that is now paying off. I like to be busy and productive; I now have a sense of direction”. In addition to his job at HOPE, Chris is also works part-time for Primerica selling legal protection services and is studying to get his insurance license so he can handle their insurance products as well. He would like to be a financial advisor someday.
Chris is a shining example of hard work paying off and a true testament to the Linkages mission. Thank you Chris and best of luck in all you do!