Kristen H., who is on the Autism Spectrum, and her mother, Mary, are great champions of JCCA’s Compass Project. This program for teens and young adults with learning differences and related disabilities helps youth plan for and make a successful transition from high school, college or unemployment to the workplace and independent adulthood.

In 2011, when Kristen came to Compass, she had decided that with her Community College Associate’s Degree, she was ready to find a job. “I’ve always loved books, especially fantasy, adventure and mysteries, so I really wanted to work in a library. But I wasn’t so good with people, and I needed help with that.” Her mother realized that “the single most important skill Kristen needed to learn was how to conduct a job interview. All the Compass staff members were terrific. They helped Kristen hit the ground running, and she landed the job at each of her three interviews!” Her most recent position is a dream come true—the Cold Springs Harbor Library—where Kristen is doing a great job helping patrons find what they’re looking for and assisting the librarians with organizing and shelving books. For the past year, Kristen has also made herself indispensable in her other job doing clerical work at Allen Machine Products in Hauppage, NY. Mary explains, “Kristen has an amazing work ethic. She is never late and has never missed a day of work, even during Hurricane Sandy!”

But job-finding isn’t the only service Compass provides for young people. Kristen has also learned to socialize and make friends, attended Healthy Living workshops and dinners, and gone on field trips to places like Montauk. “Kristen could never have done any of these things without Compass. It’s amazing how independent she has become and how much she’s learned to interact with others,” continues Mary. What does the future hold? Although living with her parents now, “I’d like to get my own apartment someday and become completely independent. I also hope to be a writer,” Kristen adds. Mary is quick to point out that Kristen is not the only one who has benefited from Compass. “Because Kristen has Compass in her life, I have a new life, too. I’ve been able to start graduate school, something I never dreamed I’d be able to pursue years ago.”

The following is Kristen’s speech at the Toast to Success on March 26, 2015:

Finding My Dream Job
By Kristen H.

I have come such a long way since I first came to JCCA’s Compass Project. I was a student at Suffolk County Community College when I was first introduced to Compass. My parents were impressed with how they help people with special needs find jobs after college. Once I graduated with an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences, it was time to find a job. My mom worried about me. I struggled with communicating with people and needed a lot of help having conversations. With the help of a book on interview questions and their expertise, Compass really helped me learn how to communicate better and present myself properly to an employer. This took a lot of hard work and practice, but Compass knew when I was ready for my first job interview.

That first interview lasted over an hour. I was pretty nervous, but it went well. Much to my surprise, I got the job! This was my first paid job, at the Law Office of Elan Wurtzel, where I then worked for over a year. I had a wonderful experience working there. I scanned case records and filed papers, a whole basement full, down to the last box. I finished everything the office needed to be taken care of, so I worked myself out of a job!

Then it was back to job hunting. After a while Compass helped me find not just one, but two great part-time jobs that I have right now. One is working in the office of Allen Machines and the other is my dream job as a page at the Cold Spring Harbor Library. You see, I love books. I am settled into both jobs and they are working out nicely. Everyone I work with is very friendly and supportive. I feel great about being a working girl and getting a paycheck.

Compass also has great social programs, where I’ve made some great friends. That is hard for people with autism. I went on trips to places like Montauk overnight and to see Disney’s “Frozen on Ice.” I have become more independent, and learned how to socialize with others better and make friends. Compass is the right place at the right time for me.

I owe a big thank you to the staff at Compass.I wish that my story will encourage others to support JCCA Compass so they can continue to help other young people succeed.

I look forward to getting my own apartment one day. It will happen! I am very happy with my life and my work. Compass has changed my life for the better!