Interview with Jessica Morrow: Supporting Individuals in Their Employment Journey
We sat down with Jessica Morrow, our Chief Program Officer and Director of Employment Services. Jessica provided insight into the services that assist individuals in finding the best employment opportunities for them. This month we celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) which highlights all the contributions of American workers with disabilities. JNCS not only advocates but demonstrates inclusive employment policies and practices.
What are the services you offer in the Employment Department?
Jessica: Employment Services at Jay Nolan Community Services is focused on assisting people to identify 100% integrated employment with competitive wages. We created a package of services to meet each person on their employment journey, starting with discovery. This means helping people explore their interests, strengths, and ideal conditions for success. This can include volunteering, seeking out educational or training opportunities, and investigating paid internships. Some people may have that experience and a clear vision of what they want to do for a career and from there we would offer more job development services, in which case we would help with building a resume, polishing interview skills, and practicing job readiness.
We want to ensure job security as well, so we offer job coaching which includes working with the employer on fulfilling job duties, seeking feedback, and learning about promotional opportunities. Another service offered is understanding benefits management which covers social security, wage reporting, and has a certified work incentive planner which is very unique to Jay Nolan. Our goal is to support the whole spectrum of needs of employment wherever the person is at.
What is your proudest accomplishment during your time as a director?
Jessica: This work is incredibly rewarding. Every time I have witnessed a supported individual achieve a personal goal, such as earning their first paycheck and cashing it to buy something they want or turning the key in their first home, graduating school or getting married, it fuels my soul for the work. Which also helps me feel like we have accomplished something as a community and as an organization. Pieces of everyone’s accomplishments and celebrations are all collectively part of my proudest moment.
What is the most difficult challenge you are facing at the moment?
Jessica: We are working within a system that wasn’t designed to support employment. Starting with education all the way through career development, this system was established in the 1970’s, so institutionalization was the way people went. At Jay Nolan we are trying to redefine the services and work within these parameters to have the creativity to support our goal of 100% community integration, competitive wages, and employment opportunities for people. I think the employers we work with and everyone involved in the services we offer wants to develop the best ways to make this possible, but the system hasn’t been set up for us to have the success that we are hoping to have.
“At Jay Nolan we are trying to redefine the services and work within these parameters to have the creativity to support our goal of 100% community integration, competitive wages, and employment opportunities for people.”
What do you see as the future of your department in 10 years?
Jessica: My dream is that there will be no need for this department or this organization, because this society will have adopted to offering healthcare and education that meets the unique needs of every person in our population. Then I’ll go open a med spa! My goal is to work myself out of a job, so that services like ours wouldn’t need to exist because the existing infrastructure we all depend on would be able to actually customize to everyone’s unique needs.
Until that happens, I hope that we are partnering with educational institutions, starting with grade school and working with families to think about the future in a way that empowers children to dream about what they want to become when they grow up. From there I see Jay Nolan continuing to assist each person on their individual journey, and continuing with that customization which supports each person to be the beacon of what they want and matching them with the right service that will propel them to where they want to go. I believe in this work, and I believe I am in the right place at the right time.
Jessica Morrow has worked for Jay Nolan Community Services since 2004, where she first started out in the Supported Living Department. She transitioned to Employment and Day Services in 2016 after being inspired by assisting people to achieve career goals and developing many relationships. Jessica was educated at Plattsburgh State University of New York, but accredits her skills as an advocate, supporter, volunteer, and family member to Jay Nolan’s culture and dedication to its mission and values.
Click Here to learn more about Employment Services at Jay Nolan Community Services