Success Stories

Susan Cecil will be the first to admit – her colleagues at Davis Wright Tremaine law firm spoil her a bit.

"They threw me a Harry Potter-themed birthda​y party," she said. "They know I love Harry Potter. They also know I love purple."

Susan thinks of her new employers as family. The firm appreciates the hard work, sunny personality and upbeat attitude that Susan brings to a high-energy, sometimes stressful work environment.

Susan Cecil and manager Heather Robertson 

Heather Robertson, manager of the support services team for the Portland office of Davis Wright Tremaine, knew that the firm's Belleview, Wash. office employed a person with a disability. She contacted the Washington Initiative for Supported Employment (WISE) and asked about the process of hiring an employee that experiences a disability. WISE is contracted with the Oregon Department of Human Services' Employment First initiative to deliver training and technical assistance to providers transforming from sheltered and facility-based employment to community-based job services. WISE put Heather in contact with Albertina Kerr, a recipient of a DHS transformation grant. Albertina Kerr then brought forward three candidates for the firm to interview.

Heather said they were impressed at how smoothly the process went.

"I really liked that WISE and Albertina Kerr came in and took the time to learn what our needs were and really get a good understanding of what the position is and what the culture is here before they brought us candidates," she said. "It really instilled a lot of confidence for us."

While all three candidates had strengths, Heather said Susan impressed the entire team right away.

 "She asked good questions," Heather said. "And I really liked how she observed the artwork. That showed me she had a sense of aesthetics, and that is important to me."

Susan was hired in April 2017 as a hospitality clerk. She works 20 hours per week at the firm's office in downtown Portland. Susan is responsible for stocking the firm's seven kitchens located on four different floors of the Wells Fargo building. She makes coffee, stocks pantries, does dishes, and makes sure the kitchens and break rooms are presentable.

"Attorneys and paralegals have high stress and high expectations," Heather said. "They need to come in and have those creature comforts available when they are working long hours. Susan is a ray of sunshine. She is so happy and easygoing. We have received so many compliments from both staff and clients since she started."

Susan Cecil 

Susan, 37, previously spent her days sorting hangers at Albertina Kerr's now—closed sheltered workshop. The provider has transformed to community-based services. Susan said she wanted to make more money and do different work.

"I wanted something that was less stressful and I wasn't making enough money," Susan said. "I like the variety here. There are different tasks every day."

Susan moves between the four floors of Davis Wright Tremaine's office, and interacts with a wide diversity of people. She has a tendency to be overly friendly, and is working with a behavioral support specialist to learn to draw boundaries.

"I love to give hugs," Susan said. "I have to work on my boundaries."

Isaiah Adams, Susan's initial job coach, said Susan learned the skills needed to do the job quickly. Most of the work involved learning to communicate professionally and setting her boundaries.

In her free time, Susan volunteers at KBOO community radio station and participates in Special Olympics. Her coworkers at Davis Wright Tremaine pitched in to get her new golf balls, a shirt and a hat for her trip to the Special Olympics.

"We support each other and help each other here – that's the environment here at Davis Wright Tremaine," said Diane Sotski, Human Resources Manager. "Everybody chips in to support one another and Susan is part of that family now."

Mark Foster was the VR counselor for Susan. Betty Girsch with Multnomah County Developmental Disabilities Services is her service coordinator. Her job developers were Ryan Farrow from WISE and Erin Cochrun-Weston and Kevin McCray from Albertina Kerr. Her initial job coach was Isaiah Adams and her current coaches are Whitney Miller and Ryan McFallo.

View a slideshow of Susan at work.