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Staff Profile: Kelsey Montano

By Drew Milne 

In brief, describe what you do at the Sonoran UCEDD. 

Kelsey Montano: I work with students with disabilities, help them get job readiness skills, and then put their skills to work.

What is your role, specifically?

KM: I’m a vocational specialist. My role is working with schools and employers, networking, and finding those job sites, so that students can put the skills that they’ve learned into a real work setting.

Who do you work with in the community?

KM: We work with the students and their job coaches, and from there we work with employers at the job sites.

What does this look like on a day to day basis?

KM: Day to day it varies based on how many students we have, how many students are placed out in the community, and how many are still in the school setting. Creating jobs on campus is another element of our job. That might mean we’re on school campuses working with them ongaining positions at a school store, food service, custodial work, or office work.

Why is your work important?

KM: The results are the important piece for me. I like to see the growth from the students. I like tosee the change and impact that our service has with each individual. Something to remember is that each situation is individualized, and with that it’s important to be open-minded

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So you can’t use the same approach for every situation.

KM: Absolutely. An example of that is we had a few students placed at a hardware store. They were doing the same task - stocking. One student was looking at the pictures of the items so theycould match them appropriately, and another student was matching the bar codes. Understand that someone may need more or fewer supports, but they’re still getting the same task done.

What do you like most about your work?

KM: I think that ties back into the growth. I like to see from start-to-finish what the students arecapable of. Sometimes even the student doesn’t recognize that they have those abilities, and putting them out into the community where they can get the job done is a reward in itself. Then they gain the confidence to keep pushing through or gain new confidence to help them learn a different task altogether. It’s very rewarding.

What inspired you to start doing the work that you do?

KM: I’ve always worked with students, and I’ve worked with this population for a few years now. Coming from an educational setting, it’s very nice to be on the other side and see it all tie together. I haven’t been introduced to a program as effective as Sonoran UCEDD, so it’s positive seeing first hand the results of what can happen with a vocational specialist, transition specialist, and a supportive team working with the students and educators.

Do you have any stories from your work that have particularly resonated withyou?

KM: We paired a new student at one of our job sites over the summer, and the employers were kind of hesitant to have students come in, understanding that a few of them might have a disability. In this case they were open and accepting of us coming in, and by the end of the summer session they missed these guys. They were actively asking how these students were doing. They wanted to know if the students were going to come back and do some more work. Aside from that, we had a student who was employed at a dream job of his. He worked there for the summer and he worked hard, he made relationships not just with the employers but with the regular customers, and he just started his first day of work as a paid employee.

Is there something about your work that people might not expect?

KM: A lot of these job readiness skills come naturally for us. We don’t usually think twice about howto put something up when we stock an item or put an item away. For these students, they justneed a little extra support. So it’s the same tasks you and I do on a day-to-day basis, they just need it to be more individualized and more focused. Whether that’s attaching a visual aid or aprompter to better assist them - they’re still capable of getting the job done.

Do you have any advice for people who may be interested in working in your field?

KM: A lot of this is based on observation, so just be present and enjoy the process. Help them understand that while sometimes there will be things at work that we don’t enjoy, a lot of it should be something that we enjoy. So if they’re put in a job site that they don’t enjoy, that’s a good indicator for us that this placement might not be the right fit for them. So ask “What is it about this job that you do enjoy? What is something that you took away that you still liked, and what are the things that you don’t like”. So it’s finding that drive and finding what motivates them.

In the course of your work, have you learned something that has stuck with you?

KM:  I learn something every day. I think the biggest takeaway I’ve had is that there’s not just one way to solve a problem, and to be open-minded about that.

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about what you do?

KM: Overall it’s really important for me to let others know that everyone is capable of work. Everybody deserves a chance to work and to be employable. If we can help one person, that’s a reward in itself.

"Getting vaccinated helps the world. It helps everyone" - Gabriel Martinez

Even if you've had COVID-19, it is still recommended that you receive a vaccination.

According to a study cited by the CDC, vaccines are very effective in preventing re-infection1.

Gabriel Martinez got his vaccine after recovering from his infection with COVID-19. He says the side effects of the vaccine are mild compared to the symptoms of COVID.

"One of my [COVID] tests was positive. I was in the hospital for almost a month. My blood pressure went up, and I couldn't taste anything. It was very hard to breathe. I used an air machine. I couldn't get my legs under me - I was in a wheelchair."

Thankfully, Gabe recovered. After quarantining, he was able to get the vaccine and return to work shortly afterwards. 

"The side effects [of the vaccine] were joint pain, aching, and headache". Gabe encourages people to get vaccinated, both for themselves and for their communities.

"You'll feel better. Lighter."

Annual Report 2021

The UArizona Sonoran UCEDD has been working in partnership with Arizonans experiencing disability for more than 15 years. We reached more than 68,840 individuals through outreach, community education, model programs and information dissemination, and created meaningful changes in lives and systems. During this year, we leveraged 31 grants, contracts and other funds totaling $2,653,525 to support and expand our work. 

TRAINING & TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE

9,472 attendees of continuing education

3,239 attendees of community trainings

826 recipients of technical assistance

29 trainings provided

SERVICES

 

233 participants in clinical service programs

393 participants in model service programs

 

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OUTREACH & ENGAGEMENT

47,429 visits to websites

3,181 followers on social media

2,361 views on Youtube

 7 toolkits, pamphlets, brochures and factsheets

STUDENT EDUCATION

972 students taught 

21 medical residents trained

17 trainees engaged in interdisciplinary training programs

5 disability related courses taught

RESEARCH

29 local, national and international conference presentations

15 studies conducted 

14 peer-reviewed articles, reports and book chapter published 

 

COVID RESPONSE

 

71 virtual events and trainings

20 youth in virtual employment