By Amy

Have you ever bought a lottery ticket? You know your odds are stacked against you, but the chance that you might win big is too much of an enticement to ignore. How exciting it would be to get that prize. Week after week, you keep buying that ticket hoping you will get lucky. It becomes an obsession, an addiction to some.

Well, I won the lottery! No Quick Pick or Scratch Off for me, but in my opinion, I had all the numbers right for the Power Ball win! The odds could not have been stacked any higher against me. My son, Spencer got a job! Not just any job. He works Monday through Friday, wonderful hours, and he is a member of a Union.

Spencer is 24 and was born with Down syndrome. My obsession..err, my journey with getting him a job started a little over 10 years ago when Spencer was in middle school. I was a very active part of Spencer’s educational planning, as most parents are, but there was one different requirement when we worked as a team to write goals. “Can we draw a direct line from the goal we are trying to achieve to a job that Spencer might realistically want and get?” That was my ultimate goal for Spencer from 7th grade on.

We explored various activities that Spencer enjoyed. We eliminated professional hockey player as being an unrealistic choice and narrowed it down to something to do with plants or food. Spencer enjoyed seeing the result of his work, whether it was nurturing and watching a plant grow or baking cookies.

Spencer was able to explore both of these options while still in high school as he had access to the school cafeteria and the Horticulture teacher took him under her wing.

Since Spencer does best in routine, I needed a place that would stay in business for a long time with the same staff. I decided a school cafeteria would be ideal.

January 2010, Naperville Central High School was undergoing massive renovations. The cafeteria was being equipped to be a distribution kitchen to make and ship out lunches to elementary schools and middle schools in the district that did not have kitchens. The contracted food service company, Sodexo, would be hiring. I talked to anyone who would listen to me, and it paid off. Spencer got a trial run to see what he could do.

He worked for 1 hour panning frozen food on industrial cookie sheets. I was elated for the chance, and in my opinion it was the perfect job for him. His speech is very difficult to understand until you get to know him, but this was no problem, he didn’t need to talk too much. The big problem was his speed. Spencer worked about 75% slower than the experienced worker. But I didn’t give up. I knew Spencer needed to have a meaningful purpose to his life for it to be fulfilling.

My persistence paid off. With the help of a small army of believers in Spencer, we landed him that job. With the compassion of a wonderful Sodexo manager and supervisor, we were able to adapt that job so that Spencer is successful. Spencer has never gotten as fast as his other co-workers, and they accept that. He shows up everyday happy to be there and works as hard as he can for his shift. He has also expanded his duties to helping the janitorial staff break down boxes for disposal.

Spencer just completed his fourth school year working in the Naperville Central High School Cafeteria, and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t thank my lucky stars for that job and all the wonderful people who believed in him.

This was the prize of a lifetime. Something I wouldn’t trade for a winning lottery ticket.


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