I Don’t Have Words, But I Have Happy Tears


Kylie Thrives with Supported Employment

When Kylie of Watertown, Wis., was interviewing for a job at Culver’s in Johnson Creek, Wis., her top pick for a job after graduating from high school, she gave a surprising answer to one of her interview questions. When her interviewer asked, “Why do you want to work here?” she responded, “I want to work at Culver’s so I can be the mascot, Scoopie, and show off my dance moves.” Kylie’s outgoing, spunky and fun-loving personality is obvious to everyone she meets, and today, her personality seems a natural fit for customer service. But Kylie’s mom, Wanda, said prior to a job skills training program Kylie participated in with Bethesda, she did not think Kylie would be able to be independent. Kylie was born with Down Syndrome and had serious complications at birth, requiring two surgeries to save her life. While Kylie was physically healthy after the surgeries, she struggled with self-confidence for years and wondered if she would have meaningful, integrated employment opportunities. Wanda is not alone in wondering about possibilities for her daughter’s future. According to recent research, only 16 percent of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have paid, integrated employment. But Wanda said God is watching out for Kylie and that she has thrived as an employee at Culver’s thanks to support from Bethesda and the Culver’s team.

“Before cultivating job skills with a job coach, Kylie struggled with self-esteem and confidence,” Wanda said. “But now with her Bethesda job coach, Sandy, she has become more confident and independent.” Bethesda job coaches provide individualized coaching and support for people ages high school through older adults with a desire to find integrated employment and grow their job skills. Sandy has been working with Kylie for three years and throughout her time at Culver’s.

Today, Kylie works as a dining room attendant at Culver’s, greeting and taking care of customers, cleaning tables and in her words, making sure the dining area “looks spiffy.” She earns her own income, an obvious point of pride for Kylie. Her manager, Amanda Melcher, said she has watched Kylie’s confidence grow over her time and she is now smiling and interactive where she used to be shy. Kylie even has her regular customers, including a group of ladies who call themselves the “Antique Ladies,” who she takes special care of during their weekly visits.

“As soon as she sees us, no matter what, she makes sure that we get served. She helps me with my wheelchair and brings us ketchup, soda and coffee without us having to ask. Kylie treats us with such respect. She is doing a great job and is a good worker,” Doreen, one of Kylie’s regular customers, said. Her managers and Bethesda job coach agree, and say it is important for people with disabilities to have jobs out in the community.

“They want to work. They want to show they have more skills besides just sitting,” Sandy said. “If Kylie was just in a work center without supported employment, we would never see her people skills. This is the perfect arena for her to show off and grow her skills while she adds value to the team and has a positive impact on her coworkers. With Bethesda’s model, everybody wins.” Kylie said she doesn’t have the words to describe how she feels about having her own job, but she does “have happy tears.”

“I love Bethesda and their work because everyone there is super positive with Kylie,” Wanda said. “From going through the interview process to identifying her strengths on the job, Bethesda has played a key role in Kylie’s success. At the end of the day, Kylie needs to have the same outcomes as everyone else, whether they have a disability or not.” Wanda said Kylie has dreams like any typical teenager, including wanting to move into her own apartment someday, exploring the possibility of college and being able to pay for her own shopping trips.

“I feel proud to be making money for myself,” Kylie said. “Now I tell people, ‘Do whatever it takes to have the job you want. There’s nothing wrong with doing what you want to do in life.’”