OCTOBER IS NATIONAL DISABILITY EMPLOYMENT AWARENESS MONTH
In recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, this week’s Employee Spotlight is on Alirio Magana, Administrative Assistant / PT Receptionist.
“Jawonio is an opportunity for people who have a disability like myself to live out their dreams and accomplish any goal they put their mind to.”
Jawonio: Alirio, thank you so much for this conversation. Please share your early Jawonio story with us and how your mom found out about Jawonio.
Alirio Magana: When I was seven months old my mom was told by our doctors that I had Cerebral Palsy. They also told her that I would not be able to walk. A year later we found Jerry Staller. Jerry was my my first physical therapist who came to us for a home visit. He shared information about all of services and that was it.. we made the decision to come to Jawonio.
Jawonio: Can you tell us about some special memories you had as a child and teenager.
Alirio Magana: My greatest memories as a child and up to the age of 18 was attending the Jawonio Summer Education program. My favorite part of the day was swimming because it was both a therapeutic exercise and allowed me to get out of my wheelchair and feel that freedom in the pool every day.
Jawonio: Tell us about some of your activities and discussions with your friends.
Alirio Magana: My friends and I love talking about sports, tv shows and playing games. I think finding out that we all shared similar perspectives on disabilities was really important as well. We shared our successes and frustrations realizing that people don’t know what we deal with every day as a person with a disability. In recent years I have become an advocate for myself and others in the community and with our elected officials.
Jawonio: What was school like for you and what were your favorite subjects?
Alirio Magana: I was not your typical student as one of only 2 wheelchair bound students in school. I knew people would look at me differently. However, I was like every other student when it came to my favorite subjects which were Math and English. I have always loved English and enjoyed writing.
Jawonio: What was your schedule like after school?
Alirio Magana: During the school week and at the end of the day I would head over to Jawonio and receive my physical, occupational and speech services. I still receive those services today.
Jawonio: We have heard you were very imaginative in the way you went to your prom at North Rockland High School can you tell us about that?
Alirio Magana: I like to have fun and I had an idea to invite Ellen DeGeneres to my prom. News 12 reporter Blaise Gomez found out about my invitation and came to school for an interview. While she was interviewing me I decided to ask her to prom and she said YES. We were escorted to the prom by the Town of Haverstraw police department and it was an amazing night.
Jawonio: That is an incredible story wow! So following graduation what were your goals?
Alirio Magana: I honestly didn’t know what I wanted to do after high school. I began looking for online for college programs and found out that Rockland Community College offered a degree program in Computer Science. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to keep pace at the time, so I left the program. I was attending day services at Jawonio and then in 2018, I moved into the Jawonio Salmon Group Home and began my participation in Day Services. Fast forward to June, 2021 and I sat down with my amazing house manager Gerthy who has truly changed my life. We spoke about the possibility of getting myself back into school. With her help and encouragement, I am currently in an online self-paced school program at Penn Foster College where I am hoping to graduate with my Associates Degree in Computer Information Systems. Along with my educational goals I was also focused on getting a job.
Jawonio: That is fantastic!! Alirio, in keeping with the spirit and importance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, you are truly a role model. Tell us about your job at Jawonio and what’s great about it?
Alirio Magana: I am proud to say that I am the Assistant Receptionist at the Jawonio Main Campus. I answer the phones and transfer calls to staff and programs throughout the agency. I also welcome people to our main campus and direct them to where they need to go. I love meeting new people and those kinds interactions during the day are great for me.
Jawonio: Jawonio has an amazing culture of care and collaboration, what would you share about your experiences here?
Alirio Magana: Every single staff person cares about me and the people they support. Gerthy, Julie and David in Day Hab, as well as Human Resources and Community Employment Services Staff have supported me every step of the way. The employment team made sure that I had all of the necessary equipment and accommodations to do my job well. I always say that I would not be where I am without the staff. They go above and beyond for all of us every day. I am their co-worker now, and I feel that’s an amazing accomplishment for me,
Jawonio: Since your goal was obtaining employment, what would you tell others as it relates to your journey?
Alirio Magana: I would tell someone who has a disability like me, to just go for it!! Never give up on your dreams. While it may take a while, at the end of the day, you will be happy knowing that you made it.