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by Isabel Mosseler

When agencies involved in the North Eastern Employment Network (NEEN) met in Sturgeon Falls to share successes and challenges, they got to hear of a local success story that really illustrates the strength and impact of their program.

At the conference held May 24 at the local Comfort Inn, SF resident Alex Gingras, age 24, talked about his experience as an employee with a disability being supported by the jobPath Program. In front of representatives from 7 different Community Living agencies, including South Muskoka, Huntsville, Parry Sound, Almaguin, North Bay, Manitoulin Island and West Nipissing, Gingras served as guest speaker and, along with his employer Nanditta Colbear of the WN Literacy Alliance, gave a rousing endorsement of the program.

“Before I was in jobPath, and registered with Employment Solutions and Community Living in general, I was diagnosed with High Functioning Autism. There were, as you can imagine, many obstacles I had to overcome,” he told them, explaining how he decided working in reception was a good fit for him, after trying different career paths.

Gingras told a story of how he had to fill in for a sick employee in his father’s firm, which led to him realizing he enjoyed reception and was good at it. He enrolled in jobPath and worked in volunteer positions while he trained, improving his skills, until an opportunity to work with the Literacy Alliance came up.

Paulyne Charron, Employment Coordinator for Community Living West Nipissing, said “Alex mentioned he came to Community Living to be part of the employment training program and he identified he was looking for a receptionist type job. So we worked with him in that, discovering what his abilities are. He started jobPath right away and that has intense sessions for self-discovery. We also trained him as a receptionist here at Community Living, where he manned the phones, greeted people as they came in. Yes, he had chosen the right path in life – definitely his strong points.”

“In a conversation with Nanditta [Colbear] one day, she said she was looking for a front desk agent, and we had the ideal person. Alex went for the interview and aced it.  …He went to work.” Colbear also accommodated Gingras’ wish to complete the jobPath Program while working part time. He is now full time.

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