Rising to the Challenge Before Her
Two months into beginning a Kenpo class, Karlee Egger had finally built up enough confidence to try on a pair of roller blades. For a person with cerebral palsy and who had been in a power wheelchair for thirteen years prior, this would prove to be no easy feat.
Kenpo is a form of karate and Japanese martial arts that requires intense mind and body coordination. Karlee’s resilient ability to get back up and rise to the moment before her, despite immense physical challenges due to her cerebral palsy, is one of the keys to Karlee’s success — both personally
“I got out of my wheelchair, fighting my way with the help of my instructor, Mr. Schierloh,” says Karlee. “On that end, thankfully I am back on my feet and have been for several years now.”
After being unemployed for a long period, Karlee originally came to Beacon Group in 2017 and began
working with Ticket to Work Employment Specialist Dick Gribble.
“Karlee is a very focused and determined individual,” says Gribble. “Professionally, she has incredible drive to both find a job and to continue working. She adapts to the challenges of her disabilities and finds the right employment fit for her.”
To aid in her employment search, the pair initially focused on refining Karlee’s résumé while locating and interviewing with potential employers.
For Karlee — a proud recipient of dual master’s degrees in accounting
and finance — she found her employment fit in both a local call-center as well as in a variety of roles with
Kenpo University. At the University, she took on the roles of an administrative assistant and a fill-in assistant instructor — a task which required the completion of an eight-certification program.
Robert Schierloh, who is the owner and head instructor of Kenpo University, explained his approach in
teaching many types of students including children and adults with and without disabilities. “So, I work with
each student, even if I have a class of 20 to 30 people. I tailor each one to each individual person. Each person has a different learning level.”
For Karlee, the decision to begin a course at Kenpo University and eventually work there has been lifechanging. Studying the martial art itself has helped her with body coordination. Her biggest challenge was
learning to adapt movements with the left side of her body which is more affected by her cerebral palsy.
Karlee also credits Kenpo with lifting her overall mental health. “Kenpo has improved my overall spiritual
well-being and emotional happiness,” she says.
As a result, during this past year of an unparalleled tough job market, Karlee has maintained both of her positions at the local call-center as well as Kenpo University where she took on tasks that included rewriting technical manuals or having them translated into eight languages. When courses eventually resume at full capacity, those efforts will bring a greater appeal and accessibility to the school by attracting a wider variety
of students with diverse backgrounds.
Regarding her own employment and personal journey, Karlee’s advice
to other people with disabilities is simple. “It doesn’t matter what you have, anything is possible as long as you are willing to allow yourself to find a way to make it work.”
Her words serve as a reminder that, during times of adversity, it is best to light the path forward. Imagining new possibilities is sometimes the first and most important step!