An Unexpected Road to the Future
A direct support professional who supports services to men and women with intellectual and developmental disabilities talks about his path to this career — and the rewards he never imagined it would bring.
As children, we sometimes have grand dreams for what our lives will be. Where we’ll live, the places we’ll explore, and – of course – what we want to be when we grow up.
For me, I dreamed of being a world-renowned researcher and scientist. I was sure it was a path that would allow me to change the world.
As I grew up, I continued to chase that dream. I went to college and finished my undergraduate degree destined, I thought, for medical school. But something just didn’t feel right.
I wasn’t happy. The had liked the idea of this future more than I was enjoying the reality of it.
It’s a similar story to so many college graduates, struggling to find their way. I knew I still wanted to make my mark on the world, but suddenly, I had no idea how to do it.
One of my favorite quotes is by a pastor and author named T.D. Jakes: “If you can’t figure out your purpose, figure out your passion. For your passion will lead you right into your purpose.”
As it turned out, the answer that would change my life came on a Tuesday night. I was catching up with a friend after a weekly basketball game and happened to ask whether he knew of any job openings. His answer: Check out Bancroft.
I had very little experience working with people with special needs; still, he encouraged me to apply. I possessed qualities beyond experience that he felt made me a good candidate: I was passionate, and compassionate; I was reliable; but more than anything, I craved the chance to make an impact.
I also discovered that a foot in the door would open a path not just to a job for now – but to a career path, with incentives I hadn’t even thought about: flexible scheduling options, tuition assistance programs, a path to a master’s degree, and leadership training, among other benefits.
I interviewed for the job 3 years ago, and started working at Bancroft just a few days after my birthday. To this day, it remains one of the most rewarding gifts I’ve received. And I’ve never looked back.
I work in direct support as a program specialist, ensuring that quality services for the men and women we serve, some of whom have significant special needs, are best delivered. There is no greater impact you can have on the world than by helping others learn how to live independently, to thrive, to engage with the world around them. It’s a bond like no other.
It’s not always easy work; days can be long and unpredictable, as with any profession. But unlike other jobs I’ve had, I go home at night knowing I’ve made a real difference in the lives of real people – people I’ve come to know, respect and care deeply about. It’s a hard feeling to describe, that moment when you realize this isn’t at all the future you pictured, but now you can’t imagine doing anything else.
To quote Steve Jobs: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you will know when you found it.”
That’s my story. As tens of thousands of men and women earn their degrees, I hope they’ll take some inspiration from it. If you’re still searching for your purpose or path in life, try something new. Try a career in direct support. You may find your calling – and you will change lives in the process.
Bancroft is hiring direct support professionals throughout South Jersey. Learn more at Bancroft.org/Careers.