Award Winners2021 Governor’s Achievement AwardsPA Department of Labor & IndustryOffice of Vocational Rehabilitation2021 Individual Achievement AwardSheryl AustinPittsburgh, PASheryl’s life has had one recurring theme: overcoming all obstacles. Whether it be homelessness,childhood trauma, or caring for her son, Sheryl has always been known for her perseverance. Herinitial meetings with counselor Daniel Jusinski were difficult, as the need for housing and immediatemental health services acted as seemingly immovable barriers to employment.Sheryl received the help she needed to circumvent these barriers from her local church and theOffice of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) and found stable housing, joined several social supportorganizations, and enrolled in school. Last year, Sheryl was offered a job at Giant Eagle with the helpof OVR’s business services staff and has consistently reiterated her desire to work there until herretirement.Sheryl’s counselor Daniel spoke favorably of Sheryl, divulging, “My high regard for Sheryl comesfrom her willingness to set goals for herself that relate only to herself. She fights the urge to compareherself to others or to some arbitrary concept of where she should be in life. A lot of people just asintelligent would end up bitter and focused on setbacks, but she always seems to fall back on faithand a methodical work ethic that I can only admire. When she recovered, I promised I would nominateher for the Governor’s Award for Individual Achievement. In my time as a counselor, I can think of noone who I feel is a more worthy candidate.”
Award WinnersPA Department of Labor & IndustryOffice of Vocational Rehabilitation2021 Student Individual Achievement AwardJawaun NoaksPittsburgh, PAJawaun Noaks had difficulty establishing and maintaining appropriate interactions with his peersand those in a supervisory role. He was not involved with any extra-curricular school activities anddid not have any specific job goals in mind, nor did he have any intention of attending any type ofpost-secondary training.Under the counseling and guidance of his Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) counselor,John Ulozas, Jawaun began building confidence in himself. Jawaun still lacked practical job skillsas he had never worked before but knew he wanted to work with his hands and preferred to workoutside. John called on one of OVR’s employer partners and set up an On-the-Job Training forJawaun.Jawaun worked the summer between his junior and senior year with a local municipality publicworks department; while there, he spent 20 hours a week cutting grass, cleaning streets, removinggraffiti, and completing various other job duties. The municipality was very pleased with Jawaun’sperformance and asked him to continue to work when he started back to school.Jawuan, full of confidence after a great summer, decided to try out for the high school footballteam his senior year. He made the team and successfully managed his responsibilities of practicing,work, and academics. Jawaun’s teachers at Westinghouse High School reported a positive changein him and commented that he has become a role model for younger students. Jawaun is buildinghealthy relationships with his peers, empowers them to make good choices, and helps others whenand where he can.As Jawaun approaches the end of his senior year in high school, he is talking about prospectivepost-secondary training and is exploring the many opportunities he has in front of him. Jawaun hasbenefited from his involvement with OVR and has developed many skills that he will carry with himthroughout his life.
Award WinnersPA Workforce Development AssociationPA Department of Labor & Industry2021 Governor’s Achievement Award - YouthIvy BlanchardJamestown, PANominated by West Central Job PartnershipAt the end of her junior year in high school, Ivy’s mother passed away afterbattling some difficult medical conditions. With her mother gone and herfather not in the picture, Ivy applied and was granted full guardianship of her four younger siblingsso they could remain a family in the same household.Even with this unsurmountable responsibility, Ivy successfully graduated high school and began heracademic studies in the fall of the same year at Penn State University Shenango working to becomea Registered Nurse. Ivy has proven her dedication with consistent academic accomplishments. Shewas recognized on the Dean’s List at PSU every semester, completed all pre-requisite classes, andwas accepted into the Sharon Regional School of Nursing in December of 2019.As of January 2020, she has been a full-time nursing student. During the initial portion of her nursetraining, Ivy was still working part-time on weekends as a Server and Front House Supervisor upuntil this past fall of 2020. Ivy has been a Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) InSchool Youth participant since the spring of 2020 through the WIOA Title 1 program and wasawarded an Individualized Training Account.Goals that have been discussed and for which Ivy has already been working towards are foradmission in the Fall of 2021 to the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program at the PennState University Shenango campus. Her long-term goal is to obtain a master’s in nursing with aspecialization in Emergency Room/Trauma Care.In Ivy’s words, “Minutes before saying my final goodbye to my mother, a nurse had walked into thehospital room. The nurse explained in the most nurturing way what all was soon to come. In thatmoment, I felt a sense of comfort and peace; she had left a deep impression on me. The nurse I hadencountered that day truly inspired me to pursue a career as a nurse.”
Award WinnersPA Workforce Development AssociationPA Department of Labor & Industry2021 Governor’s Achievement Award - YouthQuamir LindsayLansdowne, PANominated by Workforce Board Lehigh ValleyAs a returning citizen and father of two girls, Quamir Lindsay knewcompleting Lehigh Valley’s Out of School Youth Program would not beeasy. Quamir completed the You’re Hired Employability Skills curriculum, completed assessmentsand pre-training requirements, and then enrolled in Northampton Community College’s LineworkerProgram with Class-A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Driver Training.Shortly after classes began, Quamir’s car was unexpectedly totaled in a hit-and-run accident; thisyoung parent now also faced transportation challenges. He was left with no way to get to schoolor his part-time job. With the help of his Career Advisor, he utilized bus passes to commute to andfrom school, and he was guided to the Compass website to apply for assistance.To make matters worse, Quamir’s school closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time,Quamir was finally reimbursed by his car insurance company and was able to purchase a new car.Classes resumed in June 2020 and Quamir re-engaged with courses and returned to working as anUber driver to support his family.Over the summer, Quamir had the opportunity to speak to U.S. Senator Bob Casey in a virtualroundtable event in August 2020, where he shared his struggles and successes. Quamir graduatedon November 2nd, 2020 at the top of his class!He accepted a job offer from Matrix NAC through the International Brotherhood of ElectricalWorkers (IBEW) Local Union Hall 126 in Reading, PA. He is currently doing substation work as aFirst Step Lineman Apprentice. His long-term goal is to become a Journeyman Lineman since heloves the trade and has made many friends within his new group of co-workers.Quamir is now earning 32.70 per hour and stated he would always recommend the PA CareerLink to family members and friends in the future. He shared that he will always be grateful to theprogram and staff for providing the chance to “give his daughters a better life!”
Award WinnersPA Workforce Development AssociationPA Department of Labor & Industry2021 Governor’s Achievement Award - AdultRichard LynhamRochester, PANominated by Southwest Corner Workforce Development BoardRichard Lynham grew up in “Southie,” Boston’s Irish working-class community. He spent much of histeenage years struggling with drug abuse and spending time in a juvenile care facility (from whichhe later escaped). Rich hit the road as drum tech for a local rock band, which led him deeper into aculture of drugs and violence.Within a few years, he was traveling the country as a rigger for bands including Bon Jovi,Aerosmith, and The Rolling Stones. At age 23, he stopped touring and served 5 ½ years in prisonon a felony conviction. Rich’s hardcore lifestyle resulted in a critical automobile accident, a fall froma stage roof, and an addiction to the opioid pain medications he was prescribed. Rich eventuallybecame homeless and decided to seek treatment.He took control of his addiction in 2017 with the help of Light of Life Rescue Mission, Cove ForgeRehabilitation Center, and a series of halfway and three-quarter houses. He began workingpart-time while staying at Gateway Rehabilitation Center’s Moffet House in Beaver Falls, PA. Apresentation by one of Gateway’s Certified Recovery Specialists motivated Rich to use his addictionand recovery experience to help other individuals in recovery. He also learned about Penn StateBeaver’s Certified Recovery Specialist (CRS) training program and Opioid grant funding availablethrough Job Training for Beaver County, Inc. (JTBC) to cover the cost.Rich was referred to PA CareerLink Beaver County where he met with a JTBC case manager. Hiscase manager coordinated his enrollment into Penn State’s CRS program and referred him to theOffice of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) for additional support. Rich completed the CRS programand obtained his CRS certification in December. He then continued to work with JTBC’s casemanager and job search specialist to develop a resume, practice interviewing skills, and increasehis computer skills. Rich’s OVR counselor told him about a CRS position at Resources for HumanDevelopment (RHD), a local drug and alcohol addiction treatment center.Rich applied for the position and worked with JTBC to develop a short-term on-the-job training(OJT) opportunity to help him successfully transition into his new career. Rich now works full-timeat RHD and is regarded as a favorite among residents and staff. His co-workers nominated him fora Values Day 2020 award as an “extraordinary professional whose dedication makes a tremendousdifference and favorably impacts the lives of the people he supports.” Rich will reach his 3 years inrecovery date next month and strongly believes in the power of “one addict helping another.” He isexcited about the opportunity to refer individuals in recovery to the services be received throughJTBC, PA CareerLink Beaver County. and OVR.
Award WinnersPennsylvania Workforce Development AssociationPA Department of Labor & Industry2021 Governor’s Achievement Award - AdultCindy WeidlerMontoursville, PANominated by Northern Tier Workforce Development BoardAfter graduating high school, Cindy Weidler went on to pursue a teaching degree and receiveda bachelor’s in art education in 1987. Cindy then married her 1st husband in 1989 and later had 6children with him. She worked as a substitute teacher, making about 11,000 a year but was unableto secure a full-time teaching job. She says that during this marriage she suffered mental andemotional abuse which eventually led to a deep depression.She began attending church and eventually found the courage to leave her abuser. She would latermarry again in 2012. She said her happiness was short-lived and before she knew it, she was inanother abusive relationship that eventually turned physical. One day she said she had enough andpacked all her belongings and left. Cindy struggled to find a teaching position but noticed therewere opportunities in nursing, so she applied for the nursing program at Mansfield University. Shewas accepted but went back to her abuser just 5 months later. She said he promised things wouldbe better this time around, however, the abuse only got worse, and Cindy was harassed to quitschool by her abuser. After a few calls to the police, Cindy finally decided to leave for good.She left that marriage with 25,000 in credit card debt and spent close to two months in a shelterfor homeless battered women. While in the shelter she was able to qualify for low-income housingand started applying for grants to help her pursue becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN).After being referred by Penn College, she enrolled in the Workforce Innovation and OpportunityAct (WIOA) Adult program in July 2019. She started the LPN program in October and was able tosecure the funding to pay for the program. She completed the LPN program in January of 2020,earning a credential.With the support of Trehab staff, she was able to gain family-sustaining employment. Since leavingher second abusive relationship, she was able to completely pay off 25,000 in debt. She then wenton to purchase her very own home and shortly after that, was accepted into a LPN to RegisteredNurse (RN) bridge program in the fall of 2020 at Penn College. Cindy believes that without thehelp from her church, and the assistance and guidance she received from Trehab, she would notbe where she is today. Cindy says, “I am no longer a terrified mouse but rather an eagle that canweather any storm.” Cindy is currently working as an LPN at the University of Pittsburgh MedicalCenter.
Award WinnersPA Department of Human Services2021 Governor’s Achievement AwardAngelica RamseurNominated by Workforce Board Lehigh Valley - EARNAngelica, a single mother of two, understands the value of hard work andeducation. She earned her certification and in August 2018 she beganworking in Florida as a medical assistant. However, only a year later, herfamily needed her assistance to help care for her grandmother in Allentown.Collaborating with her employer, Angelica transferred her position to the closest regional officelocated in Philadelphia and returned to her home state of Pennsylvania, moving her and her childrenin with a family member. Angelica attempted to balance her many responsibilities, including caringfor her children and grandmother, and commuting every weekday from Allentown to Philadelphiafor work. But, recognizing the value and importance of family, Angelica resolved that she needed tosecure employment closer to home so she could dedicate more time to her family.In March of 2020, when Angelica joined the Employment Advancement and Retention Network(EARN) program, the state of Pennsylvania was severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, soshe secured a position as a customer service representative. After working diligently to overcomechildcare and housing obstacles, Angelica realized that she was ready to be an essential worker.Angelica is now a certified medical assistant, receiving full medical and benefits. Angelica plansto continue her career path by enrolling in the Registered Nurse training program within the nextyear to fulfill her dreams. The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services recognizes Angelica forher dedication and congratulates her for obtaining financial independence for her family throughemployment.
Award WinnersPA Department of Human Services2021 Governor’s Achievement AwardAngela SonogaNominated by West Central Job Partnership – EARNAngela was referred to the Employment Advancement andRetention Network (EARN) Program in March of 2019 to assist withher Registered Nurse training. At the time, she was facing manychallenges – separating from her husband, living with her parentsand young daughters due to the loss of her family home, andmanaging her type 1 diabetes – all while completing nursing school and eventually finalizingher divorce.Despite everything in front of her, Angela presented a determined, hardworking, and optimisticattitude toward achieving her goals of buying a new home and earned her nursing degree. Shewas so focused on completing all needed requirements between school and the program that shewould take the initiative to schedule activities during her school breaks by gathering study materialfrom her instructors for the classes on her schedule the next semester.Angela was hired by Sharon Regional Health System two months prior to graduation. She iscurrently working in the COVID-19 Unit of the hospital and still states that she loves her job. In herown words, “It is exhausting but rewarding when you see the sickest of the patients go home.”She has already received a raise, now earning over 25 per hour, and was recognized for heroutstanding dedication to her patients by being named employee of month in January 2021.Angela plans to complete the current course of study to obtain her Bachelor of Science in Nursing(BSN) and see where that leads her in the future. The Pennsylvania Department of Human Servicesrecognizes Angela for her perseverance and congratulates her for obtaining financial independencefor her family through employment.
Award WinnersPA Department of Human Services2021 Governor’s Achievement AwardAmy WestleyNominated by Central Pennsylvania Workforce DevelopmentCorporation – EARNWhen Amy joined the Employment Advancement and Retention Network(EARN) program in November of 2019, she was driven to put the challengesof her past, including a 5-year struggle with substance-use disorder,domestic violence, and a criminal record, behind her and build a better lifefor herself and her three children.Amy had already been realizing success on her own, reaching her sobriety goals, removing herselffrom the domestic violence situation, and successfully graduating from drug court and was readyto realize even more of her goals with the EARN program’s help. She worked diligently withEARN staff, participating in case management, workshops and two-generation family events, andpracticed interviewing by completing mock interviews, welcoming constructive coaching, andlearning to address her criminal history confidently and honestly. She also stayed connected to hercase worker at the Union County Assistance Office.In addition to her interests in working in an office, Amy’s long-term goal was to exploreentrepreneurship to give back and help others facing substance-use disorder. Amy was co-enrolledin Title I Adult Dislocated Worker and Central Pennsylvania Workforce Development Corporation(CPWDC) Reboot programming designed to help those in recovery remain stable and moveforward with comprehensive services and career planning.Additionally, her Job Developer invited Amy to a Small Business Development Center eventwhere Amy was able meet and learn from local business owners. A local employer, Log BuildingMaintenance and Restoration, was so impressed with Amy, they gave her a chance despite herbackground. Amy accepted full-time employment as an office administrator earning 12/hour.Amy’s parents support her success by helping care for her children while she works. Since startingher employment Amy has received two pay increases and a promotion to a project scheduler forthe owner of the business. Amy has also completed Certified Recovery Specialist (CRS) trainingthrough Reboot, bringing her one step closer to her long-term goal of helping others in recovery.She recently passed her CRS exam!Additionally, Amy is training to become an energy healing Reiki Master with a long-term goal ofoffering holistic healing to those who experience internal struggles. The Pennsylvania Departmentof Human Services recognizes Amy for her determination and congratulates her for obtainingfinancial independence for her family through employment.