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Direct Support Professional of the Year – Our Nominees

March 06, 2019

Foothills Gateway is proud to share the nominations written on behalf of Brad Blasi and Jesse Albertson for Direct Support Professional of the Year. Both nominees show true dedication to the people they support and serve. They are problem-solvers who deeply care about the work they do, and their nominations prove it.

Brad Blasi

Brad was a finalist for this year’s DSP of the Year Award.

This nomination is special as it is written from a different perspective.   You see, Brad has trained his current supervisor (me) twice, at two different agencies: once in 2001 and then again in 2014. Working with Brad makes others better at what they do, whether they are working temporarily in the field or aspire to move on to different positions. Brad’s character and compassion seeps into every detail of every moment spent in his presence.

With every individual, no matter their need, Brad demonstrates the highest level of professionalism and compassion. In his current position, Brad works with individuals who struggle with communicating their feelings, oftentimes doing so with physical aggression. We can count on Brad to remain calm and poised during difficult behavioral situations. It would not be unusual to walk into our staffed setting and find Brad painting pictures with an individual with obvious evidence that his painting partner had experienced a rough time earlier in the day. What you would also see is a warm smile, a cheerful voice, and a deep affection in Brad’s eyes.

Many DSP’s work in this position as a job to help them get through school. Others do it as a stepping stone to a higher position. Brad does this job for the intangible rewards that come with making a profound difference in someone’s life. This is demonstrated daily in his interactions with his coworkers, families, and the individuals with whom he works.

When Brad walks through the door, palpable relief floods a mother’s face when she is worried about her son who is scared and having a difficult day. If you were close enough, you would hear her whisper, “Oh good. Brad’s here, that will help.” One can look in the eyes of the individuals when they are being supported by Brad and tell he has made a difference. They look to him when they are scared, confused, and when they are celebrating a success. His connection and rapport with them is apparent to everyone who has the privilege of observing him doing his job.

He employs creativity and humor to engage individuals in their daily routines and activities. One of the individuals with whom he works with doesn’t like exercise. No problem! Brad engages him in silly mock sumo wrestling and dance parties! And no one makes doing laundry an adventure like Brad does! He provides an environment that supports individuals to be as independent as possible, while still ensuring all of their needs are met.

Further, Brad shows an in depth understanding of the impact that turnover has on the individuals with whom we work. Brad demonstrates this in how he trains new DSP’s. He teaches best approaches, routines of the individuals, and daily household tasks, while paying attention to the tiny details that can make a big difference in someone’s life that are often overlooked when a staff person is new. For example, when to change razor heads, where an individual prefers their towels to be when they get out of the shower, or the quirky signs and words individuals use that don’t mean what you would think. Without these details, their transition into the individuals’ lives becomes more challenging.

Brad gives peace of mind to his colleagues and supervisors because of the compassion and thoroughness he applies to everything that he does.  He’s the kind of person that makes his decisions based on what is the “right thing to do”. The Avengers may have a Hulk, but we have a Brad!  Nine times out of ten, a staff person will report a repair that is needed, and before the day is done, another report comes in, “Never mind, Brad fixed it”.    I could go on for many more pages with examples and stories of why Brad deserves this honor.   Not because he has accomplished one big victory. Brad’s influence has been of a different kind. He has left his mark in the lives and hearts of so many, like a river does on a mountain, with a gentle, steady, consistent, presence.

Jesse Albertson

For over a decade, Jesse has committed himself to bettering the lives of individuals with disabilities. As a Career Consultant, his ability to connect with the individuals he supports and members of the local business community has made him an invaluable member of the Foothills Gateway Supported Employment team.

Jesse is the junior member of a very seasoned Supported Employment team at Foothills Gateway. In his first year, he was responsible for placing seven individuals in Competitive Integrated Employment (CIE) positions and three individuals in Paid Work Experiences (PWE), helping Foothills Gateway achieve a 22 percent increase in the number of job placements from the previous year. These job placements were a direct result of his creativity, dedication to professional growth, and willingness to expand his professional network.

Jesse shows a passion for working directly with individuals that are often considered too difficult to work with and finds employment opportunities that align with their interests and skills, even when this seems unachievable. For example, Jesse was recently working with an individual and was taking him out in the community for an assessment at a local music venue. During the drive to the assessment site, the individual was able to identify the flight number and model of every plane that flew overhead. This led to a conversation where the individual expressed to Jesse a desire to work in the aviation field.

The next day, Jesse went to the Fort Collins-Loveland Municipal Airport to see if there were any available job opportunities. He was directed to multiple staff members and was finally given the name of the owner of The Flying School. Jesse contacted her and arranged a meeting where he described the work that he does and the individual’s desire to work in the aviation field. The owner stated she was unable to create a paid position for the individual at that time.

While most Career Consultants would have given up at this point, Jesse remained undeterred. He decided to research alternative funding sources and reached out to the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) to inquire about funding for a PWE. Over several weeks of coordination between the individual, The Flying School, and DVR, Jesse was able to set up a PWE where the individual now assists with the general upkeep of the school’s fleet of aircraft. While this is only one example, it is a perfect representation of his determination and creativity when it comes to the many job placements for which Jesse has been responsible.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Jesse consistently seeks out new opportunities to expand his professional knowledge. He has taken advantage of multiple training opportunities over the past year and regularly seeks out the advice of his supervisor, Senior Career Consultant, and representatives from the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation to ensure consistent professional growth. His motivation and passion push him to set larger professional goals for himself, including obtaining the Certified Employment Support Professional certification this year to further solidify his position as one of the top Career Consultants in northern Colorado.

Jesse has also taken it upon himself to attend Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce meetings in an effort to expand his professional network and create potential employment opportunities for individuals he supports. Through his attendance at these meetings, he has created awareness of the Foothills Gateway Supported Employment program among many prominent business leaders in the community and expanded our ability to place individuals in meaningful, long-term community employment.

Jesse’s personal drive, coupled with his commitment to professional growth make him a strong candidate for the Direct Support Professional of the Year award.

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