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"Making a CHOICE"

Making a CHOICE

By: Kaitlyn Kregel

At the beginning of 2019, I knew this year was going to be stressful. I was on my last semester of college, trying to stay motivated to finish strong. The thought of graduating and finding a job was weighing me down. My last semester of college consisted of 13-hour days…my full-time unpaid internship, a part time job to pay my bills, and I was battling back pain/appts. On top of that I was supposed to fit in interviews and a find a job that was going to support myself and the overwhelming amount of student debt I would have.

My dream has always been to move back to my hometown, Decorah. Decorah is my childhood. It is where I became the person I am today. It is where my parents are. It is my true HOME. I knew it would be hard to find a job in the field of social work that would financially hold me over. After my 13-hour days, I applied for many jobs. There were barely any openings in Decorah. I was forced to apply within an hour one-way commute of Decorah. As phone calls and interviews starting rolling, I was mapping out pros and cons of each job opportunity. The deciding factor all came down to money vs. happiness.

I worked for CHOICE Employment in the summer of 2018 as a job coach. During my time of job searching, I kept checking their website. I simply saw “only hiring job coaches.” I knew deep down my expenses may outweigh my pay I would receive at CHOICE as a job coach. I reached out to the owners, Patrick and Carrie. I was informed of a Regional Director position that was in the works. I decided to go into CHOICE Employment and learn more about this position. Time was clicking, deadlines of my job offers were approaching, and a CHOICE had to be made.

After multiple talks with my boyfriend and parents weighing options, it was ultimately my decision. Did I want to make more money, or did I want more happiness? I made a phone call to Carrie and accepted their job offer as a Regional Director. Little did I know this decision truly would impact my life a lot more than I thought.

I started working at CHOICE Employment full time at the beginning of June proceeding graduation. Things were going well, and I thought I had my back pain finally under control. At the beginning of July, I was stranded on my bedroom floor once again in extreme pain. I was scared. I didn’t know how this was going to affect my job. I tried to force myself to get ready for work. I slowly got myself to the car and I knew I couldn’t sit in there for the short commute to work. I had to call into work with no vacation time built up. On July 4th, I went to the ER. Little did I know, 2019 had another stressful obstacle for me to face. After many doctor visits, physical therapy, an MRI, and meeting with a neurologist: at the age of 22 I needed to have back surgery.

Now as I am in recovery, laying down in my bed, I think about how accepting a job offer at CHOICE Employment was one of the best decisions that I have made. The CHOICE Team has been more than accommodating during this process. I think about how if I had taken one of those other job offers how my life would be different.

CHOICE Employment not only helps individuals with disabilities out in the community but takes care of their employees as well. At CHOICE, we adapt, accommodate, and advocate. Everyone despite a different ability or limitation CAN overcome obstacles and be successful with community employment. We are a FAMILY that works together to overcome society’s discrimination and stereotypes against individuals with different abilities. When you think about it, WE ALL have limitations. We all have talents and we all have things that we can’t do so well. Who is it to say that someone can’t work for a business in the community because of one of their limits?

Working for CHOICE Employment brings happiness into my life each day I walk through the door. Before accepting this job, I thought long and hard about my time at CHOICE that summer before. I knew I would have a team who would literally have my BACK no matter what life threw at me. I never expected to have back surgery at the age of 22, but because of CHOICE I knew my job would be waiting for me after I recovered. I am not so sure if I would have a job with any of the other jobs offered to me.

CHOICE Employment, thank you for all you do. As the mission statement states,

“CHOICE Employment is assisting people with disabilities to access, obtain, and maintain employment.”

This not only relates to the people we serve, but people within our team as well. Again, thank you CHOICE Employment. My dream of moving back to Decorah and finding a job that brings me happiness has been met simply because of your job offer and allowing me to come back to your agency. Through adversity and overcoming this obstacle in my life, I believe CHOICE Employment was the right CHOICE all along.

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