Our First STAR Awards Celebration

Welcome to QC Enews Empowerment

Quality Connections has changed a lot since we started in 1999. In fact, we’ve changed a lot since the pandemic only a few years ago. We’ve grown and expanded our services to adapt to the need of our members and staff. 

An addition that I’m incredibly proud of was unveiled just last week: QC held its first STAR Awards, a chance to celebrate the outstanding progress both QC members and QC employees are making towards their goals. 

STAR stands for Silver Tree Achievement Recognition. It refers to the huge tree mural we have on one of our walls, the leaves made up of “high fives” – little notes of congratulation, encouragement, or just thanks, written on colored paper hand prints.

On the mural are the words, “We are all connected, hand to hand, heart to heart.” It’s as good a description as any to convey the sense of community we have here at QC. Every individual’s success is shared by all of us, which is why we are so happy to have a special celebration to mark these milestones.

We hope you enjoy this edition of Enews Empowerment.

– Armando Bernasconi,
Co-Founder and CEO

Quality Connections' First STAR Awards

The recipients represented all six divisions of Quality Connections. There was the trainee at Evergreen Academy Preschool who is striving to be the best educator she can be; the In-Home Support Services employee who isn’t afraid to challenge the status quo on behalf of the people she serves; the long-term group-home member who recently was put in charge of ordering all the supplies her home needs.

They were only a handful of the QC members and employees whose accomplishments were celebrated at the first Silver Tree Achievement Recognition or STAR Award, presented last week.

The recipients were honored for the progress they are making towards their goals – members for the work they are doing to develop themselves and employees for their commitment to supporting our members. Although each of the goals were different, they are equally important, and part of the glue that binds us together here at QC.

Here’s a list of the outstanding members and employees who were honored:

Evergreen Academy Preschool:

  • Maryann Monson, Trainee
  • Anna Jerpseth, Teacher

Group Home Services:

  • Christine “Tina” Canchola, Member
  • Tawnuma Lomawunu, Direct Care Support

In-Home Services:

  • Hannah Getzen, Direct Care Worker

QC Learning:

  • Elizabeth Wilson, Student
  • Monica Burres, Manager

QC Office:

  • Kylee Morain, Customer Service Representative

Employment Services

  • Anne Marie Rivera, Trainee
  • Carly Granet, Job Coach

To see the full (but brief) ceremony, check out our Facebook Live video here

Every quarter we plan to gather to celebrate and honor members of our community with the Silver Tree Achievement Awards. Because when we look around, we see STARS everywhere at Quality Connections.

Story of Success: Andrew

Although former QC member Andrew no longer lives in Flagstaff, we often think of him and how he epitomizes the way Quality Connections can help someone change their life.

Andrew is an intelligent, meticulous, and kind-hearted young man with autism. We first met him when he was in high school looking to develop employment skills.

Andrew is not defined by his autism, but it does affect his senses, which makes being around loud noises, touching unclean things, or communicating his wants and needs more challenging for him.

He enjoyed tinkering with electronics, so he was a natural fit for our e-waste program, where he tested and refurbished used electronic equipment (just like the hands pictured above, working on restoring a computer).

Working at QC helped him develop his confidence and basic employment skills, while he and his job coach worked to find creative ways to overcome his barriers. In addition to direct work experience, Andrew also worked with QC to refine his interpersonal verbal communication skills and his ability to recognize visual cues. He also began attending community college to earn his Comp TIA certificate with the help of tutoring from QC.

Before he moved to the Pacific Northwest, he had progressed so far that he was able to complete an internship in the Coconino County IT department and secure a job as a cashier at Target.

Most importantly, Andrew learned that there were always ways around barriers or challenges he might face in the workplace. When using walkie-talkies was required at his job, Andrew and his job coach practiced with them (often saying the most outlandish things) until he was comfortable with the equipment. Ultimately, Andrew was able to progress to the point where he could be successful without QC support.

Before moving, Andrew reached out to QC once more to recycle some old electronics. QC Chief Communications Officer Doug Arnett, who had worked closely with Andrew in the e-waste program, said he was struck how much Andrew had grown – both in confidence and in his workplace skills – since his first days at QC.

“Andrew really worked hard to develop the skills he needed to progress forward in his life on his own terms,” Doug noted. “He developed his computer skills to be able to work with professionals running IT for an entire county. He honed his communication skills to where he was able to become a cashier in a busy retail store. He faced his challenges head-on and now gets to reap the rewards.”

We need Quality Connections . . . like you!

You can help individuals with disabilities become independent and productive members of our community. There are many way to be a ‘Quality Connection’ and get involved and all of them are important:

Every purchase from QC Office equals employment and job training opportunities for a person with disabilities.

Enable a person with disabilities to become a productive member of our community.

You’ll be doing good. Plus, you’ll get a dollar-for-dollar credit on your AZ state taxes (up to $800!)

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