RISE worker focuses on job seekers’ similarities

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ANGOLA, Ind. (AP) - If Stephanie Kersten has learned one thing in more than 30 years working in job placement with people with disabilities and others in need, it’s that deep down, we’re all pretty similar.

As director of employment services, Kersten works in mainly in vocational rehabilitation job placement at RISE Inc., Angola, where she has been 30 years. Though RISE serves clients in Steuben and DeKalb counties, it also works with a state agency on job placement for people from the four-county area who are in need of vocational rehabilitation.

“You find working here that people are much more alike than different,” Kersten told The Herald Republican (http://bit.ly/Kf62bR ).

Kersten’s main work is through a part of the agency called The RISE Connection. She places people in jobs in the four-county area, particularly those who are injured, have special needs or need to update their skills. Most of her work is placement with private industry in the four-county area in connection with Indiana Vocational Rehabilitation Services.

“The blind and the visually impaired are some of the most exciting (people) to work with because of the technology out there,” Kersten said. “There’s something different every day.”

Kersten got her start in the industry while working at Craig Hospital in Denver, Colo., a facility that specializes in spinal cord and brain injuries. Upon returning to her hometown Angola, she was directed toward the Community Sheltered Workshop, now RISE, to work in vocational rehabilitation job placement. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and a master’s from Idaho State University.

She hadn’t planned on staying long in her return to Angola in 1983, but here she is, working away at job placement and many other tasks at RISE.

“I have the same job with which I started, but I wear many hats,” Kersten said.

Perhaps the most visible is her role with Special Olympics and the annual Mayor’s Prayers benefit basketball game, which pits the Special Olympics basketball team from RISE against a community team from DeKalb and Steuben counties coached by Angola Mayor Dick Hickman.

The game will be in its seventh year and has seen growth and evolution, including the addition of a cheerleading team made up of local men dressed as female cheerleaders.

“It has become one of our most fun events,” Kersten said.

This year’s game will be held on March 27 at Angola High School. Last year’s game attracted nearly 1,000 people.

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Information from: Herald Republican, http://www.heraldrepublicanonline.com/

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