“My name is Suzanne. I have Down syndrome, but that doesn't define me.”
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, so we’re sharing the story of a cheerful and inspirational participant of the Work Incentives Connection, a program of Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota (GESMN).
Suzy is a positive, hard-working young woman. She is an entrepreneur, artist, inspirational speaker and hospitality employee who came to GESMN to better understand how employment affects her federal disability programs.
Suzy initially reached out to GESMN with questions about Supplemental Security Income (SSI) after being hired as a breakfast hostess at a local hotel. Then, after being consistently employed for a few years, she became insured by Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). To help with both, Suzy met with Lisa Stang, a Community Work Incentives Coordinator at GESMN, to learn about the work rules and incentives available while receiving SSDI and SSI.
“Suzy is a hard-working and well connected young woman,” says Lisa, “My first impression of Suzy was that she was friendly and respectful of others. She seemed to have a kind soul.”
This personality reflects in her work at the hotel, where she voluntarily gives guests homemade cards and candy and she creates her own apron for her uniform to match every season or holiday. Suzy’s warm personality and desire to make others smile earned her the “Head of the House” award from the Minnesota Lodging Association.
Suzy is also an inspirational speaker and motivates groups with career and life advice through sharing her story.
“Believe in yourself and be proud of who you are. There is no one else like you,” Suzy says. “You have many abilities. How will you use them?”
The theme of this year’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month is “Inclusion Drives Innovation,” and Suzy provides the perfect example of what businesses expect when they hire people with disabilities — and that a person is so much more than a diagnosis.
Lisa sums it up perfectly: “I think Suzy has accomplished a lot for herself, not just in terms of the work, but by bringing a positive awareness of the qualities a person with a disability can bring to a job or a community.”