Working with persons served at OU has taught me the power of progress. Big or small, progress is progress. OU has prepared me for my profession as a special educator by assisting individuals in reaching goals. Every day is different, and I look forward to seeing persons served, their families, and co-workers each shift I work.
I was given an amazing opportunity to work at Opportunities Unlimited for 3 years during high school and college. The life lessons and experiences OU taught me are something I will always be thankful for. Working with children and young adults with disabilities opened my eyes to so many things. The imagination and creative abilities of so many of the kids was wonderful to see, and I enjoyed helping those children use their unique abilities to their full potential. Some days were filled with joy and other were filled with hardships, but most importantly I learned from those days both easy and hard. Seeing the progress towards independence and self-growth of the young kids is a truly inspiring and infectious environment to be around!
When I moved to Sioux City for college and was looking for a job, I knew that with going into education I would want to do something with kids. I applied for a job at the Children's Center through Opportunities Unlimited in 2003 and started a journey that has shaped my life in so many ways. Working at Opportunities Unlimited gave me so much experience that has helped in my career as an elementary teacher and also in my personal life with my own children. The children and adults that receive services through Opportunities Unlimited face challenges everyday that most people take for granted. The amazing thing, though, is that everyone still had big smiles and positive attitudes everyday despite some of those challenges.
The staff may be the ones teaching their clients certain skills, but overall I think the staff is learning so much more. Each individual receiving services at OU has their own unique personalities and special talents, and it was so much fun watching them grow and find those talents. I learned that not one person is the same and that's okay; everyone "shines" in their own particular way. Knowing that every single individual has a special skill and uniqueness has helped a lot in my teaching. It has made it a lot easier to find the potential in every one of the students I teach now.
I have gained an entirely different outlook on life after working at OU, and I am so thankful to have been a part of the Opportunities Unlimited family.
Throughout my life I have had many jobs, some I liked and others were basically an income. However, since coming to Opportunities Unlimited (OU) 13 years ago, I came to realize my true passion. Although I had never held a position that involved the direct care of people, I embarked on a new experience like no other in my life. From the beginning I found that I really loved getting up to go to work. I had finally found a meaningful purpose to my life. In the past there were many times that I felt sorry for myself and asked why my life was so hard. I sometimes felt as though I had been dealt a bad hand in life. However, after starting at OU, I soon realized that my "hard life" was nothing compared to the struggles our clients go through daily. From the beginning I saw first-hand how accidents and other life threatening events can change a life in a split second. How persons with traumatic brain injuries fight to do the simplest of things many of us take for granted. More importantly, I have spent 13 years watching the miracles and triumphs of these very special people. It has taught me, if nothing else, what the true meaning of giving is. It is not in monetary or material things, but rather when one gives from the heart! I have received so much more than I have given since becoming a part of OU. At OU I found my true passion and work hard to live by our mission statement: "Maximizing Personal Potential Through Dignified and Purposeful Living". It requires working continuously to bridge the gap between disabilities and possibilities. I constantly strive toward excellence in all that I do and celebrate the uniqueness of all people, while demonstrating integrity in all my actions. It has been my extreme pleasure and the reward of my life to be a part of the persons I serve daily and the OU family and team. My only regret is that I did not find my way to OU earlier in my life. It definitely would have been as they say, "The icing on the cake."
I like Waiver Services because I like spending time with all of the Waiver staff. I love telling them how well I am doing in school. I like going to movies, out to eat, and talking to them. All the Waiver staff like hanging out with me. They are always nice, and I love all of their advice about how to grow up in the future.
I've been with Opportunities Unlimited for just over three years. As an employee, I have seen such amazing things happen with the individuals we serve. I have heard a client speak for the first time post-injury. I have helped prepare clients to move on to more independent settings, something they may have dreamed of for years. I have watched as clients stood on their own two feet after many months of rehabilitation. Big or small, all events are considered major milestones in the lives of clients served at O.U. and we celebrate them together as a team. O.U. has incredible and devoted staff that provides 24 hour supports, fantastic rehabilitative services, and advocacy for individuals with disabilities. I am blessed to have the good fortune of working for such an amazing organization. To me, O.U. is part of my family.
Opportunities Unlimited means family to me. It is a family oriented organization - always someone to lean on. When I was in my time of need with my father having his stroke, I was told to "Just go, don't worry about work and call with updates." During this time, I also talked to OT/PT and Speech and learned more information about Traumatic Brain Injuries. The insight I learned gave me ideas in how to help my dad get better. Two years after his stroke, I believe he is 80% closer to what he was before he had his stroke.
Opportunities Unlimited is a place for people who have been impacted by a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or spinal injury to work towards rehabilitation needs and transition to another part of their life. Opportunities Unlimited helps clients achieve their maximum amount of progress with great support from the community, families and staff.
What I would like everyone to know regarding Opportunities Unlimited is that it is a great place for your loved ones to receive their rehabilitation and great care until their maximum potential is achieved. The staff and therapists work hard with the client's to achieve success and to have them reach all their goals.
Opportunities Unlimited to me means having the satisfaction of helping others and observing progression of individuals we serve. I have been working with one young boy for three years and I have been able to see first hand how his speech has developed. I get to help them build skills for a quality life with opportunities they might not other wise have at another organization.
Working at Opportunities Unlimited over the past three years I have had the opportunity to mature, I started here as an 18 year old kid then progress into a 21 year old adult. I have been able to view disabilities as uniqueness as opposed to a handicap with the help of the individuals we work with. My employment has helped to open my eyes to see the potential for growth for all individuals we serve.
For parents looking to get services for their loved one I would say Opportunities Unlimited is a great place for individuals to grow and pursue independence.
Over the years I have seen phenomenal changes take place in our company. I have seen physical changes, such as a new playground for our clients' and our clients' children and a brand new fully accessible kitchen for our clients' to learn vocational skills. I have seen our Waiver program grow from 15 children in 2004 to 145 children in 2009. I have seen our Waiver program and Residential program learn to work together to make our clients the most independent person they can be and ensure they remain active in our community. But more importantly I have seen the changes and progress with our clients. I love to be a person who can be a part of our clients "firsts". I have seen people talk and walk for the first time (either in their lifetime or after an accident), I have seen a child affected by autism look at their parent and say "mom" for the first time, I have seen a teenager who gets made fun of at school make their first true friend in the OU commons. Being a part of our clients' "firsts" is the best part about our job here at OU.
For me, when I think about what my job at OU means and how it has impacted my life I think of the old phase, "To whom much is given, much is expected." God has blessed so many of us with health, happiness and being surrounded by those we love. Many of our clients are not nearly as fortunate; as many of our adults have limited time with their loved ones and many of our children lack friendships and participating in activities with their peer group. I feel so very blessed everyday, and myself and the other staff of OU see it as our personal mission to make our clients' lives better than our own and to make sure they are given as many opportunities as possible; not only the things that you or I would have access to, but the individual wants and needs that each client has. Our organization will continue to be successful as we serve our clients with the excellence that they deserve.
If I could tell you one thing that I love about OU it would be our work culture. While serving our clients' and making an impact on their lives is the most important thing, the second is the type of environment I get to work in. Opportunities Unlimited expects an environment where we all treat each other with dignity and respect. As we treat each other with dignity and respect we become better people. OU treats their employees incredibly well with the benefits we have access to and all the extras we are given along the way. Our positive work culture also includes the word "family." When I have had tuff times in my life, the staff of OU have been there to support me and my family by whatever means possible. We care about each other and treat each other better than we would want to be treated. OU is the most fantastic experience of my life and I cannot wait to see where our company takes us in our future endeavors!