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20 Years of Transforming Lives: Q&A with TMI Director of Family Support Services Paola Osuna

Updated: Feb 6, 2023


FSS Director Paola Osuna
FSS Director Paola Osuna

When Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) Director of Family Support Services (FSS) Paola Osuna joined TMI, a nonprofit serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, 20 years ago as a Job Coach she discovered her passion for assisting others with fulfilling their dreams. Paola now heads up our FSS department which strives to provide Resource (Foster) Family homes for children with special needs, as well as provides additional innovative and trusted programs to meet the needs of the children and families we serve. Paola's position hasn't come without its challenges, but she remains optimistic and believes in the power of family, in all forms, to transform the lives of children. She shared with us what she loves about working at TMI, her hopes for the future and more. We love what she had to say!

Paola and TMI Executive Director Rachel Harris
Paola and TMI Executive Director Rachel Harris

Q. What interested you about working at TMI? A. I loved that every program here is 100% community based. I was immediately drawn to the mission of inclusion. When I first started off as a Job Coach in Employment Solutions, I had the opportunity to really get to know the individuals that I supported and learned so much from them. I soon realized how important it is for our community to assist them to live out their dreams!

Paola and TMI Director of Human Resources Rebeca Valenzuela raising funds for TMI at our Butterfly Gala
Paola and TMI Director of Human Resources Rebeca Valenzuela raising funds for TMI at our Butterfly Gala

Q. What is your favorite part about working at TMI? A. The individuals that we support. They are all so unique and have so much to offer and have taught me many lessons about perseverance, positivity, acceptance, and advocacy. I love that no two individuals are the same. Each individual that we support has their own strengths and abilities. I absolutely love their energy and optimism which is contagious. Q. What challenges do you and/or our clients face? A. I think one of the biggest challenges that we face in supporting our clients is dealing with "labels" that follow them. I think that TMI is unique in the way that we are able to think outside the box in terms of the support services we provide, to maximize the quality of life of each individual that we support, not allowing labels to discourage us or the individuals. We are able to proudly provide individualized supports despite any challenges that come our way.

Paola and FSS Social Worker Raymond Dacumos
Paola and FSS Social Worker Raymond Dacumos

Q. How have you handled the challenges? A. I feel that we have successfully handled challenges through advocacy and leading by example. We've faced so many challenges in the last years, however, keeping the best interest of our clients at the base of our advocacy has always gone a long way. We have a very strong team in FSS and our agency as a whole. The executive leadership at TMI provides so much support allowing us to overcome so many challenges. Most importantly we all share and believe in TMI's mission. We are determined and committed to keep going strong despite any challenges we may face.

Paola with our client Francisco at a TMI Casino Night Fundraiser
Paola with our client Francisco at a TMI Casino Night Fundraiser

Q. How does making a difference in the lives of our clients make you feel? A. It is truly a humbling experience, however, more often than not, it is them that make a difference in my life. They inspire me in countless ways. Q. What are your hopes for the future of individuals with developmental disabilities? A. My hope is that TMI's mission and values are implemented across the globe. My hope is that we continue to provide an inviting platform for individuals with developmental disabilities to engage in effective self-advocacy. My hope is that as a community, state, and country we are able to support their individualized needs in an effort to pave the way to the best quality of life possible.

Paola running the East County Half Marathon to support TMI
Paola running the East County Half Marathon to support TMI

Q. What do you enjoy doing in your free time? A. You'll find me engaging in self-care by way of a nice meditation, good workout, a run, or yoga. I also teach yoga a couple of times a week. I love spending time with my family, loved ones, and pets ( I have two dogs and two sulcata tortoises)! Traveling is a hobby that we share as a family. We truly enjoy traveling abroad and immersing ourselves into different cultures. You will often catch me with a good book in hand. I always look forward to a fun camping trip at the desert riding my quad!

Paola with her family in the desert
Paola with her family in the desert

Q. Who do you admire and why? A. There's a list of individuals that I admire including my parents, my yoga teachers, my mentors, our FSS team to name a few, however, I greatly admire those who have the courage to speak up for what they truly believe. I admire those making a difference in the lives of others even through what may be perceived as the smallest act of kindness and caring. I admire these individuals because their courage and support for others truly impacts the lives of many on a daily basis.

Paola with her husband and son
Paola with her husband and son

Q. What is a quote that is meaningful to you? A. "We all wish for world peace, but world peace will never be achieved unless we first establish peace within our own minds." - Geshe Kelsang Gyatso Q. Is there anything additional that you would like to share with our readers? A. I am eternally grateful for being a part of TMI for the last 20 years. Staying with the same employer for years speaks very highly of the employer, more so than the employee. I look forward to continuing to be a part of TMI, an outstanding agency that truly values the individuals that we support as well as our staff! Thank you for all of the lessons that being with TMI has taught me and for what is to come!


Thank you for sharing with us, Paola! Your hopes are all of ours and we look forward to the best future possible for those who we serve. Here's to many more years of transforming lives!


If you are interested in joining Paola's dynamic FSS team, we are currently hiring Social Workers. Please visit Join Our Team to learn more. We are also in need of Resource (Foster) Families. Get started today with transforming the life of a child. We look forward to hearing from you!

 

Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) has been transforming the lives of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities since 1981 and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing since 2000. In 2020, we launched Disabled Veteran Employment Services. TMI strives to help our clients to realize their hopes and dreams by providing Employment Solutions, Community Living and Family Support Services throughout San Diego, Riverside and Imperial Counties. To stay connected with us, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Together we can share acceptance and awareness, ultimately contributing to further inclusion.

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