When Rei first began working with Individual Placement and Support (IPS) Employment Specialist, Erika Eykmans, she struggled academically and felt she had no direction at a UW system school a few hours outside of Milwaukee. Rei thought obtaining her bachelor’s degree was the only way to break the cycle of reliance on government services. Erika took her to the Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) to pull program cards for every program offered. Rei looked through the options and narrowed it down to a few that brought her joy, with her first choice being website design. Erika then assisted her with transferring schools and notifying financial aid for the 2020 fall semester. They then set up an informational interview with the website designer at Goodwill, and at that moment, Rei was sold on her future career plans. “I found a purpose in design, and it has motivated me to continue working towards my long-term goals.” Through hard work, Rei increased her grade point average from 1.8 to 3.4 over her first year at MATC.
Rei also had employment goals but struggled to find a good fit and a work environment that was not triggering her mental health. After trial and error, Rei landed a job as a school custodian through Sodexo. Since then, she has moved into her own apartment, is more financially stable, and can treat herself to fun things she enjoys. Rei enjoys her job. “I feel like my anxiety about work has decreased. I thought I would have to be perfect, but I am allowed to make mistakes as long as I take accountability and learn. I haven’t had to take my anxiety medication at work yet! I have a lot of coworkers who are fellow nerds, and we have a fun time working together. I get a lot of compliments and even got a raise!”
Rei has a completely different outlook on her life and independence. I am back in control of my life doing everything on my own, independently, without services. I never thought I would say that.” The Individual Placement and Support program has helped Rei find her place in society. She is excited and hopeful about her future.