Reaching for the Stars

~ Lina’s Journey

Imagine being a single mother of three children, two who have disabilities, and no support system. Think about navigating the normal tasks of getting kids to school and activities, putting food on the table, and handling healthcare essentials for a family with special needs. Add to this vision, that you also have disabilities yourself. How would you stay positive and motivated every day, as you face the demands of child-rearing and supporting a family of four by yourself?

Lina is finding a balance that includes work and caring for her family – and herself!

Lina Duron Lopez is an amazing lady, and she does exactly that. She has found her way, against odds, with her children’s needs foremost in her actions, to push herself towards what she believes is a better life for her family. But it hasn’t been an easy process. Perhaps that is why Lina appreciates Theodore Roosevelt’s much revered quote, “Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground.” Intuitively, Lina knows that her strength lies in having both a sense of control over her life, and hope for the future.

Lina receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI) but she has always had a strong preference to work. Over 15 years ago she was referred to Beacon Group through Arizona’s Division of Developmental Disabilities and successfully completed a transitions program out of high school. She had worked in the food service industry before she had children, but through various challenges had stopped working, and focused full time on the needs of her children, now fourteen, eleven, and eight years of age. Her youngest child has autism, and required more attention. In addition, Lina had her own mild cognitive and behavioral health challenges to deal with. She had faced various setbacks due to her own struggles, and her journey to addressing these areas included grounding in the duties of motherhood.

Over time, Lina realized that she wanted more than just survival for her kids and herself. She was willing and able to work, as long as she could find employment that would allow her to continue to take care of her family.

Lina returned to Beacon Group for help, because she had learned how important it was to have support with her many challenges. People with co-occurring developmental disabilities and mental illness make up approximately one-third of the total number of individuals with developmental disabilities served by state DD agencies nationwide. Yet, people don’t usually fit in a ‘one-size-fits-all’, and individual needs often cross boundaries that service providers perceive fall outside their area of expertise. Often people need more than just treatment, they need unique types of support to move forward. Beacon ‘brings it all together’ when coordinated services are needed to find a good employment fit. With her past transition experience with Beacon under her belt, and her behavioral health referral, Lina got right to work with employment specialist Susan Hurt.

Lina attended the DREAM Job Fair last fall and was inspired to pursue employment in the caregiving profession. She could use many of the skills she already used every day with her children! Susan and Lina have worked on her resume, pursuing background clearances, and a work adjustment program with Beacon Group’s custodial department. Lina recently passed the Direct Care Worker (DCW) exam, and she is on-track to achieve her goal to obtain employment as a caregiver in next 60 days.

Her eyes still on the stars, Lina stays grounded with her current job, which she takes very seriously. Lina works in supported employment settings at both the Beacon Group Tucson location and Tucson Fire Station 1 downtown. She is known for her thoroughness and her knowledge of various chemical products used. The firehouse requires meticulous detail to meet their standards, and Lina is happy to rise to the occasion. Lina explains how her current work promotes what she believes are important work tenets: “Be on time! Have a positive attitude. Know your job and do it well.”

She likes knowing that her work benefits others, and acknowledges the importance of a clean work environment on people’s overall health. Going to work each day has paid dividends with her family as well. Lina realizes how the structure of employment can be valuable, and she is creating more of it in her home life with her kids; teaching them the benefits of responsibility. But the benefit that Lina cares most about is that she can work and still be home in time for her kids. That is why her goals include pursuing a good job that helps people, provides independence and personal satisfaction for her, with a schedule that lets her take care of her children.

It took some time, but Lina’s maturity and motivation are winning out. She is building herself a future, with skill development and supports that help her balance her interest in working with the demands of single-parenthood. Aware of this fragile balance, Lina smiles as she paraphrases that famous quote, “With your feet on the ground, and your eyes on the stars, you can follow your dream.”

For more information about Beacon Group Employment and Work Adjustment services, or about hiring people with disabilities, contact our Lead Program Manager at 622-4874 ext. 158.