No Stinkin’ Handout Please!

I know I’ve mentioned my son, Andrew, in my blog before.  Andrew is a 17 year old junior in high school and a person with a disability – he is missing his left arm.  Andrew has taught me so much about the determination of someone who has physical challenges.  He simply does not let it get in the way of living an exciting and extremely fulfilling life.

A couple of weeks ago at his high school advisory meeting, Andrew and I met with his advisor to review plans for his upcoming senior year.  Andrew has signed up for New Market Skills Center’s Culinary Program.  New Market is a consortium of several school districts through ESD 113 to teach a variety of skills to high school students ranging from Alternative Energy Technology to Pre-Veterinary Technician training.  Andrew chose Culinary Arts since he has had a dream for a few years of becoming a chef.  So he signed up for the program.  In my opinion Andrew’s love of food comes more from the consumption not necessarily the creation or preparation of it!  But he does love to demonstrate to me how he has learned to flip food in a skillet with the flick of his wrist after watching his favorite chefs on the Food Network.  While he was out of the room I asked his advisor if she thought this was a good move for Andrew.  She pointed out that Andrew is amazing and if anyone could be a chef with only one arm it would be him.  Still I must admit I have my doubts about his ability to do the job.  I am not going to rain on his parade but I have talked to him about a Plan B.  Frankly I think he would be really good in marketing or sales.  I have seen him coax money from some pretty challenging people.  He was the only one of our four kids who consistently scoured the neighborhood for annual school or sports fund drives.
He and I didn’t talk much about this meeting afterward.  However Andrew is taking drivers’ education and he takes advantage of any chance to practice driving with me.  I enjoy the company and quite frankly it gives me a choice opportunity to talk with him about things that we normally wouldn’t talk about.  I am a firm believer that a parent must use all tools available to them to connect with their kids.
I didn’t talk to him about becoming a chef but thought post high school planning was a good subject.  In the past Andrew has indicated he wanted to go to South Puget Sound Community College to attend their culinary program then to Le Cordon Bleu’s Seattle program rounding out his education in the culinary arts.
I mentioned to him that he needs to make application to DVR (Division of Vocational Rehabilitation) this fall when he turns 18.  Of course he didn’t know what I was even talking about so I explained that this was a federally funded program that assists individuals with disabilities in determining their career and then offering training and placement to make their vocational dream a reality. His response was quick.  He stated  he was proud and didn’t need any handout.  I think his exact sentence was “I don’t need no stink’in handout”.  He was incredulous at the thought that throughout his whole life he had fought to not make his disability a way to gain advantage or favor and now his Dad was suggesting he take something for free, a handout in his mind, which indicated he was some “poor handicapped person”  with his cup out asking for a donation.
This young man often surprises me with his insight and views.  I am so proud of his determination and drive.  I admire his determination and desire to be “normal” and not viewed as a poor person taking handouts with palm extended.  I am also amazed he doesn’t want to take advantage of a program I am so familiar with and have seen so many people have realize their dream through this amazing program.  But we have many more drives before he gets his license which will afford me more opportunities to continue the conversation.
The real question that remains is if members of the younger disability community through integrated schools, programs etc. don’t view themselves as a “special needs” population then how do we reach out and connect with them as they graduate?  Have we reached, or are we reaching, the next stage where our society is fully integrated to the point we won’t need any affirmative programs to help those who for so many years have been excluded?  Unfortunately, at present at least, employment statistics don’t bear this out.


CEO Viewpoint is published by Jim Larson, CEO Morningside

This space is intended to share my thoughts and update the community on issues concerning Morningside and its clients as well sharing inspirational employment stories.

This site is for information and discussion purposes only and does not represent the official views of the Morningside. Any views expressed on this website are those of the individual post author only. Morningside accepts no liability for the content of this site.

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