During the early days of the pandemic, with most schoolwork and socializing taking place on a screen, Sierra Olsen came to an important realization about her future. “I decided that I didn’t want a job where I just sat in front of a computer,” she said.
That knowledge eventually led to a summer position with Transition to Work (TTW), an employment exploration program for teens and young adults served by the Franklin County Board of Developmental Disabilities. Olsen worked this summer as a “discovery specialist,” helping students try out a variety of community job settings, including the NNEMAP food pantry.
“Sierra is awesome,” said Dave Cosart, employment services manager at Hattie Larlham, the disability-services nonprofit that administers the TTW program. “We had such a great group of staff this year – a good mix of college students and veterans.”
Olsen, 19, attends Ohio Dominican University and is studying to be a K-12 intervention specialist. She counts the TTW position as the best job experience she’s had so far:
No offense to Panera, but you say TTW is a lot more fun.
I enjoy this job way more than the others I’ve had. I like working with students with disabilities – in school, I was friends with kids, and I really enjoyed helping them with homework, that sort of thing. I thought this would be a great experience.
Why do you think you find the field so appealing?
I’m an optimist. I always try to aim for the positive, and look at people’s strengths, while still trying to understand their challenges.
You do have a fair amount of responsibility as a discovery specialist. That’s probably not always easy, right?
It can be a little bit intimidating at first, but once you start and get to know the students, it’s great. You see a lot of growth.
It must feel good to play a part in that growth.
It’s really rewarding. But it’s not because of me! My students were great even before I knew them. They just are.