Jennifer... “I have the ability to have resilience”

Peer Specialist

Finding and keeping a job had become a challenge for Jennifer. Work had begun to feel more stressful. Daily duties started to feel overwhelming. Jennifer was working in the retail industry at the time.  Even the loud music playing all day was starting to get under her skin. She was also coping with the responsibility of being a caregiver to multiple family members. Jennifer had a very full plate. She came to realize that she was trying to hold down her job, while adjusting to an undiagnosed mental illness. She eventually had a psychiatric hospitalization.  After connecting to counseling, Jennifer knew she also wanted to return to work.  In 2018 She opened a case with ACCES-VR.

Jennifer was referred for a Diagnostic Vocational Evaluation (DVE) to explore her aptitude, transferable skills, and career interests. She had a strong desire to work with people, in a helping capacity. Jennifer completed her assessment with a clear vision of becoming a Peer Specialist. Peer Specialist are trained to provide support to individuals with mental illness as they journey through their recovery towards goal setting and independence.

Jennifer had a firm plan in place to meet her vocational goal. She was able to attend an online Peer Specialist Training Program, funded by the NYS Office of Mental Health. Coupled with her training, Jennifer was supported by her Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Maria Montes, for a work experience at a mental health provider to build her skills. Jennifer was able to earn 1000 hours of work experience and earned her Provisional Peer Specialist Certification.

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jennifer was hired as a Peer Specialist in March of 2020. Jennifer works at a not for profit multi-faceted mental health corporation located in Jamaica, Queens. She quickly began facilitating group counseling, providing one to one support, wrote case notes, and made referrals etc. Jennifer absolutely loved her new role and felt that she was making a difference in people’s lives. Initially she was working onsite but had to quickly adapt to the entire office working from home, due to the Coronavirus. Unfortunately, Jennifer contracted COVID-19 as well. It took her two months to recover. She was so determined to continue working remotely, as she saw herself as a lifeline to other individuals with disabilities.

 By the end of last year, Jennifer had a psychiatric hospitalization. Her anxiety was exacerbated in part due to the virus that rocked the world, while coping with personal losses. She realized she needed to take more time for herself if she was going to master her new work/life balance. Throughout it all, Jennifer remained employed and received support from her employer. She has been working remotely for the past year. She still loves her job and helping others continues to bring her a sense of purpose. When asked about her setbacks, Jennifer replied: I have the ability to have resilience”. She stated she wanted others to know, “It’s ok to have a psychiatric hospitalization, just don’t give up”. She wants people with mental illness to understand that working does not have to be an unobtainable goal.

Jennifer expressed gratitude for the support received from ACCES-VR. She found her Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor to be encouraging and helpful. She was happy to be exposed to a career path that she never knew existed, and now loves. Having benefited from Vocational Services, she is now able to tell her participants about the benefits of the agency and her experience. She has added ACCES-VR to her cadre of resources she’s able to share with her peers. Now as a professional, Jennifer sees herself as being a part of the village to help those candidates interested in employment reach their goals.

This story was submitted by Taniqua Hunter
Local Workforce Development and Business Relations Coordinator
Queens District Office

Worker Success Stories