Bringing the board ‘something to be proud of’

March 24, 2017

Intern Jazmica Weathers tells the board about her current position at Embassy Suites.

About 80 percent of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities cannot find work. But on Thursday, Multnomah County Commissioners celebrated a county internship program that is successfully training and placing people in jobs.

Interns in the Embassy Suites/Albertina Kerr program told the board that the county’s job support has been transformative. For nine months, interns with disabilities rotate through hospitality positions across the Embassy Suites’ sales, engineering, accounting, front desk, kitchen, banquet, lobby, switchboard and other departments. Two job coaches work with them daily on building skills, professionalism and a strong work ethic.

Jazmica Weathers said she loves her latest rotation in the hotel kitchen.

“I had never held a knife before in my life. It was scary!’’ she said. “But they helped and I am not so scared of knives anymore.’’

The testimony came as the board proclaimed March 2017 as Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. The Department of County Human Services has 17 programs that serve more than 5,500 clients a year with services and resources, including many high school students hoping for independence as adults.

“Our county is at its best when everyone can reach their potential,’’ said Mohammad Bader, director of the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Services Division. Clients have recently been featured in a public awareness campaign “We Work, We Learn, We Love,’’ now on Tri-Met buses.

March is Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.

Josh Mortensen of Albertina Kerr, said of the first group of six interns who worked at the Embassy Suites at the airport, all six found jobs at the end of the program.

Board members said they were thrilled and touched by the enthusiasm and success of the interns. Commissioners Lori Stegmann, Jessica Vega Pederson and Sharon Meieran thanked the speakers and said they looked forward to hearing more.

“Thank you for the work you are doing with our friends and neighbors,’’ Commissioner Loretta Smith told staff. “It’s very clear the program is very successful.”

Chair Kafoury told the interns who presented “You’ve done an amazing job, not only at work but here. Coming before the County Commission is not an easy thing, a lot of people would not sit where you are, they get too scared and too nervous. So great job, thank you.’’

Embassy Suites interns, Albertina Kerr staff, Department of County Human Services staff and the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners pose for a group photo in celebration of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.