Turning a Passion for Childcare into a Career

Welcome to QC Enews Empowerment

Sometimes it takes a while for people to find their way when it comes to work. They have to explore different jobs and different workplace environments to see what they can do and what will fulfill them.

At Quality Connections, our members have the added complication of physical or developmental disabilities that often create barriers to the workplace.

As we continue to celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month, I hope you enjoy reading about Renee’s journey and appreciate the hard work she’s put into finding her career path.

– Armando Bernasconi,
Co-Founder and CEO

Turning a Love for Children into a Career

On most days at Evergreen Academy Preschool, you can find Renee Harms helping  teachers, rounding up the kids for circle time, picking up toys in the classroom, or making sure the preschoolers don’t run inside.

“A lot of the floors are tile, and it’s pretty hard, and I don’t want them to fall,” said Renee. “I tell them to ‘use your walking feet.’ That’s something I’ve learned here at Evergreen.”

Renee is a member of Quality Connections, and has been working to identify a career through our programs that provide workforce training and placement for individuals with physical or developmental disabilities.

Renee Harms with Anna Jerpseth, the job coach at Evergreen Academy Preschool.

After a few placements at restaurants and hotels that didn’t quite fit the bill, Renee has found a position she loves as a trainee at the preschool, which is also a branch of Quality Connections.

Renee says she loves working with kids.

Plus, being part of a school makes her extremely proud, she said; her mother is a teacher at a junior high school in Winslow.

Renee’s potential as a preschool employee came about from another Quality Connections program, QC Learning, our adult Montessori day program that helps members continue their education. It was there that people noticed Renee helping other members in the QC Learning classes.

She also loved to help out at QC Kids, the precursor to Evergreen Academy Preschool that Quality Connections set up during the pandemic to provide childcare for its employees.

“When we find members who are naturally parental or who enjoy teaching others in QC Learning, we often recommend that they come for training here,” said Anna Jerpseth, the job coach at Evergreen Preschool Academy. “They work in the classrooms helping the teachers and we give them whatever support they need to do a good job.”

Renee already had some skills in childcare, having attended a preschool lab in high school. She did well, despite the teacher not wanting Renee in the lab because of her disability.

“My mom called and got me in,” Renee remembered. “She’s a fighter. And I did good in that lab. I don’t know what [the teacher] had against me.”

Anna says that kind of prejudice isn’t unusual when it comes to early childhood care, something that’s doubly unfortunate as there is an unmet need for childcare workers in northern Arizona and nationwide.

Renee took to the classroom and helping kids whole-heartedly at Evergreen, and has even received a STAR Award from Quality Connections in recognition of her work.

“I can put her in any classroom and know that the teacher will have the support they need,” said Anna.

Parents of children enrolled at Evergreen Academy Preschool have been accepting of trainees with development disabilities working with their children, showing kindness and generosity with Renee and other Quality Connections trainees.

Quality Connections and Renee are working on determining what the next step should be for her to help her achieve a career in childcare. It might be applying to schools for further training in the early child care field or working in the community.

She’s also exploring getting her license in childcare, although that could be challenging; it requires 22 hours of online training initially and 18 hours of professional development each subsequent year, and there are few accommodations provided for individuals with developmental disabilities. 

Not that this is deterring Renee, who is studying the course online and working towards the day she can take the required testing. Renee credits her mom and stepdad for much of her determination. Their support is why she keeps moving forward on her path to finding work she loves. 

Or as she put it: “I don’t give up on things.”

Halloween Dance Party Tomorrow (10/27)

Quality Connections will be hosting a Halloween Dance Party tomorrow from 1:30 to 3 pm at QC Learning.

The event is free and open to individuals with disabilities served by Quality Connections and several other local agencies. 

Many thanks to the terrific group of Social Work students from Northern Arizona University who are organizing this event. They’ve also been spreading the word about Quality Connections and fundraising for our nonprofit, including holding a bake sale and flea market.

We hope everyone has a fun and safe Halloween!

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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