SALEM — If you ask Kathy, Becky, and Lindsey what makes their partnership work, they would each point to the others. Creativity and respect are evident in their work together.
Kathy Eckert-Mason is a counselor specialist with Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) in Salem. Becky Emmert is the coordinator for Living Independently for Empowerment (LIFE) Program, supporting VR consumers.
Kathy and Becky have strong backgrounds in the needs of people who are deaf or hard of hearing and are passionate about youth in transition from high school to college and work. Together, they find ways to ensure youth do not fall between the cracks.
“I tend to think big picture, saying, ‘Here’s a need we need to work on,’” Kathy says. “Becky is the detail person. She’s really good on the ground with the students and staff and coordinating the minute details like work sites, arranging interpreters and getting activities on school schedules.”
Kathy and Becky work with high school seniors and transition students assisting them in exploring career options.
Many of the youth attend the Oregon School for the Deaf in Salem. Some come through the Willamette Education Service District (ESD), which provides in-school support to students experiencing disabilities in the mid-Willamette Valley. Kathy and Becky partner closely with ESD staff explaining VR services and helping staff know how and when to refer students to VR.
Lindsey Stevens was a junior at Cascade High School in Turner when she first heard about VR. “A deaf and hard-of-hearing specialist from ESD recommended I see Kathy because I had no idea what to do after high school,” Lindsey said.
Kathy brought on Becky to help Lindsey with career exploration.
“We started doing research on equine therapy because I love horses and wanted to connect working with horses and people,” Lindsey says.
After several informational interviews, Lindsey decided that equine therapy really wasn’t a good fit for her.
Becky took Lindsey to Western Oregon University in Monmouth for a tour. There she learned about accommodations and American Sign Language classes.
“She was in awe of all the options,” Becky says.
Lindsey had done well in high school in spite of not having accommodations available to her. But she says she struggled greatly internally, had to work harder than her peers, and missed a lot of information.
One of the informational interviews Becky arranged was with a VR counselor who has hearing loss and cerebral palsy, similar to Lindsey.
“Seeing it was possible for her to be a VR counselor was a turning point for Lindsey,” Becky says.
Lindsey completed her bachelor’s degree in Psychology at Western and is now in the master’s program in rehabilitation and mental health counseling for the deaf. In January 2019, she begins an internship in Arizona at a VR office and will graduate in June.
Working together has been rewarding for Kathy, Becky, and Lindsey.
Becky and Kathy said that Lindsey’s experiences will make her an amazing counselor.
Lindsey’s response? “It’s because of the people who helped me.”