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Gabe and Johnny Complete Job Training

If you have spent any time in The Blue Umbrella over the past six months, you’ve met Gabe and Johnny as they have worked in the store. They have been here as a part of The Blue Umbrella Employment Training Program, a partnership between DHS and Empower Healthcare Solutions. This partnership was designed to provide a safe, inclusive work environment for individuals with disabilities and help prepare them for future employment opportunities.


We are proud to announce that Gabe and Johnny have completed their training and will “graduate” on March 31. Unfortunately for us, that means that both Gabe and Johnny will be leaving The Blue Umbrella, so we wanted to look back at their time here and what they accomplished.


Gabe and Johnny each completed six training program modules at their own pace. The modules were customized to accommodate their unique skillsets and focused on things like pre-employment and employment goals, workplace technology, basic communication skills, and professional skills development. After they finished each module, they got immediate feedback and were awarded a certificate of achievement.


Over the course of the training program, Gabe and Johnny had the opportunity to participate in several different work scenarios. Gabe helped the store set up a pop-up shop in the Capitol complex, appeared on THV’s The Vine show with DDS Director Melissa Weatherton, and assisted during store events. Johnny became a pro at recommending his favorite classic caramel popcorn, sat down for an interview with a KATV news reporter, and mastered the process of opening and closing the cash register as customers paid for their items.


Both Gabe and Johnny said that they learned a lot at The Blue Umbrella. Gabe said, “working at The Blue Umbrella taught me to better appreciate the abilities and talents of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I learned better communication and how to handle certain situations professionally.” During his time as a state employee, he said he saw and learned a lot of things that he did not know before.


Johnny said his time at The Blue Umbrella “really helped me be more confident in myself and my skills.” When he first started working at The Blue Umbrella, Johnny said he was very nervous. But through the interview process, roll playing scenarios, and daily coaching, Johnny now feels confident in his job as a cashier.


Gabe also said that he sometimes struggles with staying on task with large projects, but he is proud of the patience he has learned from doing data entry. Gabe has worked hard on himself the last six months and says that working three days a week has improved his mood and made his life fuller. Johnny has a big heart and told us he loves buying gifts for friends and loved ones while working at The Blue Umbrella. He enjoys seeing repeat customers and will miss everyone when he graduates.


Gabe intends to find full-time employment after he leaves The Blue Umbrella, and he also has plans to work on a podcast project. He is thankful for the opportunity to work in The Blue Umbrella and to participate in this program.


Johnny’s goal is to also find full-time employment that suits his skills and abilities. He enjoyed making pizzas in the past and would like to return to that type of work.


The Blue Umbrella is so proud of their success and growth over the past six months. We wish Gabe and Johnny the best on their next endeavors and know they will be successful at whatever they set their minds to!

Johnny labels all the store bags.

Gabe (in black) gets interviewed on The Vine.

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