Jessica Whitfield is another Voc Rehab Shining Star Success Story. Her initial intake was 12/18/2013 and her Eligibility Date was 2/14/2014. She had been accepted into our DETR program due to a history of depression and chronic low back and left side pain as a result of an accident at her work at FedEx. The symptoms of depression and chronic pain resulted in difficulties with attention and concentration, and she had mobility issues, including trouble walking, standing, and bending.
When she applied for Voc Rehab services, Jessica also had an unstable work history with no tangible transferable skills. She had earned a high school diploma years ago and then attended a couple of college classes back in 1980 but for personal reasons, lost her grants and scholarships and was in default on a loan. Now at age 49 years with significant disabilities, two adolescent dependents and struggling financially, attending college seemed an unattainable dream.
But her fortune was about to dramatically change, for in 2013, Jessica became involved with her first Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor. Jessica was eventually able to conceptualize enrolling in college classes and getting trained in a profession she was motivated to pursue. Her first employment goal was to become a Medical Records and Health Technician. But over time, Jessica realized she actually wanted to become a social worker.
She has now been with Voc Rehab for nine years. In addition to attending college on a part-time basis, she discovered she had to supplement her income to support herself and her two children. Jessica eventually became employed part-time as a nursing assistant in a senior care home. This job put food on the table for her and her family and paid for some basic living expenses.
With regard to financing a college education needed to become a social worker,Jessica did initially receive Pell Grant money and scholarships to pay for some college tuition and fees, but Voc Rehab funding was instrumental to this client’s success. “I would never have been able to attend college and finish getting my degree without the help from Voc Rehab,” Jessica emphatically stated.
Services included Tuition and Fees (2019-2022) at both Truckee Meadow Community College and University of Nevada, Reno, required textbooks, transportation, annual disabled parking passes to accommodate her mobility problems, Livescribe pen and notebooks (Assistive Technology) to accommodate her attention and concentration issues, a new laptop computer for school, printer and printer ink for class assignments, work clothing and shoes, CPR class certification, immunizations for part-time employment, car repairs, dental work, and Summer classes not covered by Pell Grant monies. The total funding by Voc Rehab was $18,528.82.
Jessica Whitfield graduated with honors from University of Nevada, Reno, with a Bachelor of Social Work on Friday May 13, 2022. Through hard work and determination, she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work with a Minor in Gerontology, with an additional Certificate in Gerontology.
She is also a member of the Sigma PHI Omega Honor Society.
Jessica credits her phenomenal success to the counseling and guidance services and unconditional support and encouragement she received from her Voc Rehab counselors “I would never have attempted college without their great support and guidance, much less persevered, especially during those times I felt discouraged and wanted to quit.” Jessica recently stated to DETR staff, “I owe everything to my Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors, and VR/DETR staff in general. The support I received at Voc Rehab was amazing. It certainly changed my life for the better.”
In addition to the other services mentioned above, Jessica also attended Voc Rehab’s Internal Job Development Team’s Job-Seeking Skills Workshop to prepare her for future employment. She acquired skills such as conducting job searches, submitting Job applications and following up in a timely manner, resume’ writing, and she honed her interviewing skills. She is currently studying for her social work exam to become a licensed social worker in the State of Nevada. “Those skills I learned will definitely help me find the job of my dreams!” she stated enthusiastically.
Ms. Whitfield profusely thanked Voc Rehab staff for all of their help and support, which she stated was instrumental in helping her achieve her educational and employment goals.