Student overcomes disability in first-ever OS supported internship in Springfield, MA


This summer, Opportunity Services in Springfield, Massachusetts is assisting students with disabilities during internship programs. Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) contacted Opportunity Services for this exciting possibility, as MRC is working with a variety of employment agencies to help students with disabilities take their education to the next level. As the conversation about disability and employment continues to grow, more attention needs to be focused on the younger generation. This added internship support is a great way to help students with disabilities prepare for the workforce following graduation.

One of the students working with Opportunity Services this summer is Jacqueline (pictured above with her mom, Charlene). When Kat Mangiafico, Supervisor of Supported Employment, met Jacqueline during orientation, she knew this student was going to be amazing. “She has confidence mixed with humility, and a maturity beyond her 19 years,” said Kat. “It was not surprising to hear Jacqueline was going to participate in two internships this summer.” Jacqueline is keeping herself busy working 20 hours a week at Goodwill and 36 hours a week at Baystate Medical Center. Maintaining two internships can be difficult at times but both offer different skill sets for Jacqueline to add to her resume! At Goodwill, Jacqueline participates in many retail-oriented tasks, including sorting clothes, auditing merchandise, etc. At Baystate Medical Center, Jacqueline works directly with the patients, learning how to care for them while completing the necessary paperwork. Jacqueline is working towards completing a Certified Nursing Assistant program, as her dream job is becoming a nurse! Jacqueline enjoys both internships because she gets to help people-which is one of her favorite things to do! “I like making the patients or customers laugh when I’m around them,” said Jacqueline. “Making a connection and helping other people means a lot to me.”

Jacqueline has overcome quite a few obstacles in her path before she could reach her current state of success. Although she is labeled as legally blind, Jacqueline continues to move forward. She is aware of the challenges she will face due to her disability, but that doesn’t hold her back from achieving success at all that she accomplishes. A major role model has been her mother, Charlene. Charlene is a single mom to 5 children: 2 of her own, 2 she adopted (including Jacqueline and her sister) and 1 that she’s fostering. Charlene has always encouraged her children to be more than what others think they can be. “I’ve always told my children- don’t let your disability determine what you can or cannot do,” said Charlene. “You can do whatever you want, if you work hard enough and get the proper education.” Charlene has gone through a lot for her kids, including working 3 jobs at one time. “I don’t want that for my children. I’ve encouraged them to get a proper education and learn a healthy work ethic, so they can have one sustainable job and enjoy life.”

Charlene is also grateful to Kat and Opportunity Services for making both internships work together in Jacqueline’s schedule. “Opportunity Services is great in that they show people what they can achieve,” said Charlene. Jacqueline’s work ethic and can-do attitude truly embody the mission, vision and values of Opportunity Services and make all of her achievements possible. “Jacqueline is the perfect example of the next generation,” said Kat. “She doesn’t let her disability get in the way of life and goes above and beyond to ensure she is successful.” Congratulations, Jacqueline- we look forward to hearing about your accomplishments in the future!