“I. Love. This. Job. I’ve loved it ever since my first volunteering day,” she says, seated in a classroom at the Easter Seals Washington Child Development Center. It’s a place Larissa has volunteered for six years because she loves working with kids, but where she officially became an employee in July. She’s now a support teacher at Easter Seals Washington, assisting classroom leads with supervising and attending to the children’s daily activities.
“I’d been encouraging Larissa to look at different ages and stages of child development,” says Jeannie Kelly, Director of the Child Development Center. “I would tell her, ‘If you are interested in this field in particular, start by volunteering.’”
Last year, Larissa worked with her Northwest Center job coach to find her first job as a packaging specialist with a local pet supply company. When that company changed owners, Larissa used the opportunity to find a new position that would offer her the same things she loved about her other job â€“ a strong team environment and the ability to work on a wide variety of tasks.
As luck would have it, the Easter Seals Washington Child Development Center had just started their search for a classroom assistant who could help the teachers with everything from setting up for meals to helping students settle into naptime.“We needed someone reliable, someone we could depend on, someone who would be a team player,” says Kelly. “We had a position available and thought Larissa would be a perfect fit. She had everything that we were looking for; she exhibited all of the qualities that we needed.”
Larissa clearly feels the job is a great fit, too. “I like it here because I get to be with the kids. They have different sides to them. They’re happy, they’re excited, sometimes they’re sad. I get to make them smile. I love making them laugh.”
For the Easter Seals Washington staff, adding Larissa to the team wasn’t about hiring someone with a disability; it was about finding a person who had all the qualities they were searching for â€“ a positive attitude, independence, and openness to learning new things.
The mission of Easter Seals Washington, she says, is to be inclusive. “As an organization, we serve children and adults with disabilities,” Kelly says. “We believe in creating an environment that is inclusive, where everyone has an equal opportunity to live, learn, work and play. Everybody is capable and can contribute. And this is a hard job. We just all work together as a team and help each other learn and grow.”
Larissa sees things much the same way. “It doesn’t matter if you have a disability,” she says simply. “You can work anywhere your heart takes you."