A photo of JJ, an individual that has shared his success story with ISK.

Resilience, self-advocacy, and a love of work keep this achiever on track

J.J. is a determined young man who advocates for himself and takes initiative. In fact, it was his idea to share his story with us. “I asked Shannon [his ISK Supports Coordinator] if I could talk about my job and everything,” he explains. “I was the one that thought of it.” We’re glad he did!

For J.J., employment is extremely important. “I like working,” he says. “I really enjoy working with my coworkers and making good friends with them.” Through MRC’s Community Employment program, J.J. connected with a skill-building program and an employment training specialist who helped him secure his main job – as a host at Buddy’s Pizza in Portage. (“I seat people and I take them to the tables. I tell them that their server will be there in a minute.”) He also works on a commercial cleaning crew one day a week through MRC.

J.J.’s top goal right now is to continue hosting at Buddy’s. Working there “makes me more happy,” he says. So when the restaurant had to shut down temporarily due to pandemic dining regulations, J.J. struggled to adjust. Being away from work triggered his anxiety. He worked through it, though, and now that he’s back to in-person hosting he’s even more comfortable and proficient on the job.

Getting to this point wasn’t easy. Beyond anxiety, J.J.’s challenges include a lack of self-confidence, health issues, and physical impairments. Learning the table chart for seating people at Buddy’s was hard for him at first, too. But J.J. perseveres in life by asking for help and sticking up for himself. One example: When he wanted to change caseworkers, he didn’t hesitate to take action. “I had to ask how I could switch, and they told me what to do, and I did it right away with no issues,” he reports. J.J. says accomplishments like that make him feel “good, proud, happy, and excited.”

When things are tough, J.J. keeps going by “telling myself ‘I think I can, I know I can.’” It helps him stay cool under pressure at work, too. He says most of the customers at Buddy’s are nice, but “if one of them is being rude, I just tell myself, ‘You can get by it.’”

Positive self-talk, resilience, courage: J.J. has all the right tools to keep advocating for himself – and succeeding at life.