Success Stories

Employment First Florida is about helping people with disabilities get the information and supports they need to work in their community. There are many Floridians with disabilities who are working in their community. Through the use of innovative, front-line employment support practices, these individuals are earning money, forming networks, and contributing to their communities. To learn more about these people and the promising practices that led to their success, browse stories by support practices category.

Employment First Florida Success Stories: Employment Services

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Ben Davis

Goodwill’s Fashion Consultant

With some mentoring from a job coach on workplace soft skills, Ben learned to succeed and grow in his job as a sales floor associate and dressing room attendant

Agency: VR

Alex Dissel

Young Man with Asperger’s Syndrome is Loved by His Small Charges

Alex Dissell's dedication toward working with small children helped him reach a position as a lead teacher in a daycare center

Agency: VR

Dennis Lopez

A Change in Vision Gives Dennis Lopez a New Career Path

Dennis Lopez dedicated himself to working with VR and completing a school program to advance to a position as an optometrist's assistant

Agency: VR

Kathy Batson

With a Little Help from Vocational Rehabilitation, Kathy Batson is Flourishing in Her New Job

Accommodations and placement services from VR helped Kathy Batson gain the skills and confidence needed in a position as an executive assistant and billing coordinator

Kenneth Johnson, Jr.

Tackling a Disability Comes Easy for Football-Player-Turned-Police-Officer

Kenneth Johnson reached out to VR and received help to further his education and become a police officer

Agency: VR


Began the employment process as a high school sophomore with a clear interest in fashion and found employment on the sales floor of TJ Max

Agency: FDDC

Rida Hernandez

Keeping the Community Safe

Rida Hernandez persisted with VR in exploring job options until she decided to train to be a security guard

Agency: VR

Kathy Naylor

Kathy Naylor Uses Her Experience Dealing with her Disability to Help Others Find Their Perfect Job

When Kathy Naylor's chronic condition made her nursing duties difficult to continue, VR helped her explore and succeed in a new career as a job coach

Agency: VR

Ashley Williams

The Sweetest Job hand-rolling and packaging caramels

When her office job was no longer available, Ashley Williams was encouraged by a VR counselor to apply to many other places that could use her skills, which is how she found a position working at a candy store

Agency: VR

Jacob Solar

Jacob Solar, Who has Autism, Shares His Experience Working for Two Outstanding Companies at the Disability Employment Awareness Celebration in St. Petersburg

Jacob Solar worked with VR to find employment after high school and turned out to be a great fit doing quality control work for two companies

Agency: VR


With careful career planning, he wants to become a master chef

Agency: FDDC

Ashley McGrath

Ashley McGrath Shares Her Experiences Growing Up with a Disability in Her Autobiography UnabASHed by Disability

After graduating with a master's degree, Ashley found a job with VR's help, working as a quality assurance analyst for a call monitoring company; she has also published her autobiography, UnabASHed by Disability

Agency: VR


Had a successful summer internship in a robot-building team in the High School High Tech program and is pursuing a career as a mechanic

Agency: FDDC

Cristy Segura

Setting Goals Helps Cristy Segura, Who Has a Disability, Reach Her Dream Job

Cristy set goals with VR to finish her nursing education and is now a registered nurse at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach

Agency: VR

Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity Embraces Workers with Disabilities

Habitat for Humanity's Pasco County office is staffed by people with and without disabilities and from a variety of backgrounds

Agency: VR


Tidbits Honored for Hiring People with Disabilities

Tidbits hires people for their strengths and the ways in which they can help the business

Agency: VR

Five Paws Hotel

On-the-Job Training Gives Employees a Start at Pet Hotel

The Five Paws Hotel found valuable employees through VR's on the job training program

Agency: VR

Project Search and All Children's Hospital

John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital Honored for Its Work with Project SEARCH

John Hopkins All Children's Hospital has found some permanent employees through their participation in Project Search

Agency: VR

Sirata Beach Resort

People with Disabilities Find Great Employment Opportunities at Sirata Beach Resort & Conference Center

The people with disabilities working throughout the Sirata Beach Hotel and Conference Center are each valued members of the staff team

Agency: VR

Aron Drenzek

Man Survives Brain Injury and Finally Lands His Dream Job

Aron Drenzek worked with an employment team on finding a job he could easily get to at Home Depot, where he had wanted to work

Agency: VR


Her love of writing is conveyed through her T-shirt and greeting card company

Agency: FDDC


Had many volunteer positions, transitioned to college and works as a human resources manager's assistant

Agency: FDDC

Jonathan Sanchez

Air Conditioning Technician – the Perfect Job for Jonathan Sanchez

With help from family and friends, Jonathan Sanchez found a perfect job as an air conditioning technician

Agency: VR

Ingrid Cupeiro

Learning Disabilities Don’t Stop Woman from Playing a Leading Role at Telemundo

With VR's financial assistance, Ingrid Cupeiro pursued her education in arts and communication and now is on a team coordinating programs on TeleMundo

Agency: VR

Henry Eichner

Van Modifications Give Henry Eichner the Freedom He Needs to Become Part of the Working World Once Again

VR financed the modifications Henry Eichner needed and set him up with placement services with an agency that eventually hired him

Agency: VR

Michael Sardinas

Innovation Keeps Things from Rolling Downhill

VR paid for a handbrake for the cart of equipment Michael Sardinas uses as the main IT person in a nonprofit

Agency: VR

Julie Seals

Improving Other People’s Health Using Her Life Lessons

VR helped with tuition and books as Julie Seals completed her education and found the right job counseling people

Agency: VR


the right fit for two employers

Agency: FDDC

Ryan Gardner

Teamwork Leads to an All-Star Worker

A VR counselor, job coach and transportation company teamed up to help Ryan transition from school into a cleaning job he loves

Agency: VR

Karlee Hayes

Organizations Work Together to Help Karlee Hayes become Employed

A VR counselor and a job coach from the Diversity Initiative for Supported Employment Services helped Karlee Hayes become employed in several departments at the University of South Florida

Agency: VR

Nichole Redmon

Collaboration Between Disability Groups Leads to Success

Nichole Redmon's Pinellas County school job coach, VR counselor and, when she graduated, her job coach from Placement Works collaborated to help her find her job preparing circuit boards at Javil

Agency: VR

Kevin Graham

Icing on the Cake!

Kevin Graham found his job as the icing specialist at Lucy and Leo's Cupcakery through the Lively Transition program, a partnership between the Leon County schools, VR and APD

Agency: VR

Jennifer Huertas and Carl Meeks

Perseverance Pays Off for Two Young People with Disabilities

Jennifer Huertas and Carl Meeks found jobs at Sunset Feed through VR's collaboration with the Community Habilitation Center

Agency: VR

Jessica Juncal

Perseverance Lands Jessica Juncal a Job with Walgreens

After hunting for a job for three years, Jessica Juncal works at Walgreens in a job they created to hire her

Agency: VR

Steven Romano

Perseverance Lands Steven Romano a Job with Home Depot

Steven Romano works as a greeter at Home Depot, a position that they have created for him with VR's help

Agency: VR

Darwin Brascomb

Young Man with Disability Mentors and Helps Others

New Step Prosthetics hired Darwin Brascomb into marketing positions that he succeeded in due to his personal experience

Agency: VR


He has a successful job at the Publix bakery and has learned to drive

Agency: FDDC

Fernando Zuluaga

Dolphins Winter and Hope Have a New Friend in Fernando Zuluaga, Who Also Has a Disability

Fernando Zuluaga's job as a greeter at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a perfect fit for his engaging personality

Agency: VR

Robert Haliburton

The Wonderful World of Discovery: the process that helped Robert finally find a community job after years in adult day services

Through the discovery process, Robert Haliburton and his counselor took a thorough look at his skills and interests and interaction style and discovered an employable person who would enjoy a job for Disney

Agency: VR

Michelle Jones

Chef Keeps Giving Back to the Community and Others with Disabilities

With VR's help, Michelle Jones is on her way in her career as a chef and food scientist, and has also taught other VR customers with similar interests

Agency: VR

Dorian Tacker

VR Customer Earns Recognition for Exceeding Sales Goals

VR helped him find the opportunity to use his sales skills working for Convergys, an inclusive employer that recognized his value

Agency: VR

Ruth Moise

A Complete Turnaround

A change in Ruth Moise's duties at Goodwill, from working in a back room to being with customers on the sales floor, brought out her confidence and personality

Agency: VR

Mark Carstens

Preserving Historic Buildings for Future Generations

With help from a VR counselor, Mark achieved his dream of working in the historic preservation field

Agency: VR


Through on the job training, he learned to be a fast, successful image technician

Agency: FDDC

Jeffrey Laverty

Jeffrey Laverty, Who is Deaf, is Enthusiastic about His New Career

VR has helped to support Jeffrey Laverty in all aspects of his duct cleaning job, from doing the work itself to interacting easily with coworkers

Agency: VR

Roger Cyr

VR Customer Helps Others Who Have Disabilities Live Independently

Once Roger decided to apply for VR services, he found the support he needed to work at the Winter Park CIL and live more independently

Agency: VR

Pierre Garnaud

Haitian Immigrant Achieves Success, Dreams with Help of Florida Vocational Rehabilitation

Having taught himself to sew, Pierre Garnaud found a job as a tailor, with support from VR

Agency: VR

Sarah Smith-Small

Zoo Miami Receptionist Doesn’t Let MS Keep Her from Doing Her Job

VR supported her to turn a volunteer clerical position into a receptionist job at the zoo

Agency: VR

David Turner

Arthritis Doesn’t Keep Man’s Career from Rolling Forward

VR helped David Turner get a hip replacement that allowed him to return to work as a motor coach operator

Agency: VR

Othedus Harvin

Stand-Up Wheelchair Lets Chef with Disabilities Continue His Career

When Theo Harvin knew he wanted to get back to work, he got support from VR to supply a stand-up wheelchair so he could go back to doing his job as a chef

Agency: VR

Paul Voegerl

Dive instructor with a disability feels weightless in the water

VR helped him pursue his passion for water by becoming a dive instructor

Agency: VR

Carolyn Diaz

Teacher with Disability is Role Model for Students

VR paid for a year of education credits so Carolyn Diaz could become certified to teach special education and return to work

Agency: VR

Danise Rosak

Giving Others Power through her Paint

VR supported Danise Rosak's purchase of a machine to help her create the artwork with which she inspires people

Agency: VR

Bobby Talley

Agencies Work Together to Get New Business Off the Ground

Bobby Talley has his own business providing games for people to play at the lake

Agency: VR

Palma Rasmussen

Ambitious Mom with Disability Starts Company with Help of VR

VR helped Palma Rasmussen start a graphics business that promotes products for other businesses

Agency: VR

Jessica Schmidt

Ability Shines Bright

VR provided Jessica Schmidt with funding and guidance to expand her candle-making business

Agency: VR

Juan Carlos

Juan Carlos Makes a Difference in Young Peoples’ Lives

VR helped Juan Carlos get the education to work as a counselor and start his business as a private life coach

Agency: VR

Barbara DeRuiz

Artist with a Disability Launches Business with Help from Vocational Rehabilitation

VR helped Barbara DeRuiz return to employment as an artist and business owner

Agency: VR

Yelanie Cruz

On-the-Job Training Proves Its Worth for Young Woman with a Disability

VR's on the job training program accommodated Yelanie Cruz's visual learning style so she could learn and then exceed her job responsibilities

Agency: VR

Regina Blanton

Successful Career in the Kitchen Began with Project SEARCH

While participating in Project Search, Regina Blanton discovered a love of food prep and now works in the kitchen at the Hilton Hotel in Altamonte Springs

Agency: VR

Crystian Morales

Man with Disabilities Has Never Missed a Day on the Job

With VR's help, Krystian Morales transitioned into two custodial jobs and has been dedicated to both of them

Agency: VR

Stephanie Perkins

Modeling Success for People with Disabilities

Since high school, Stephanie Perkins has transitioned into an office job at Designs by Camilla's, a volunteer job reading to small children, and a modeling career

Agency: VR

Labrawn Safford

Young Man with Disability Motivates and Inspires Other Students

After surviving a car accident, Labrawn Safford received help from VR to complete his education and transition into work as a motivational speaker and Macy's store manager

Agency: VR

Explorations Program

Explorations Program Gives High School Students with Disabilities a Glimpse of Possible Careers

The Explorations program funds internships for students with disabilities at workplaces that match their fields of interest

Agency: VR

Project Saint

Students with Disabilities Get a Taste of College Life with Project SAINT

VR collaborates with colleges to give students with disabilities the experience of living and studying independently on campus

Agency: VR


Transitioned in high school to Project Bridge and then a job in construction

Agency: FDDC


Interned at Health First through Project Search and then became certified as a pharmacy technician

Agency: FDDC


Misty turned a volunteer position into a job she loves, working with animal

Agency: FDDC

Shawn Burrows

Young Man with Disability Surprises Himself and His Family with How Having a Job Has Changed His Life

With VR's help, Shawn Burrows found a job in the materials center at Wuesthoff Hospital and a career direction toward the medical field

Agency: VR

Latoya Bristor

With Help from Vocational Rehabilitation, Latoya Bristor Finds the Right Job for Her

With VR's help, Latoya Bristor learned how to find a job and succeeded at Wright's Gourmet Deli

Agency: VR