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TMI's Clients Derek, Ryan and Scott are Three Very Cool Guys

Updated: May 14, 2019

Scott, Ryan and Derek

(Derek, Ryan and Scott)

Dubbed the “Cool Guys” by Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) client Ryan, he along with our clients Derek and Scott, who are all on the autism spectrum, were the first TMI Integrated Work (IW) group to begin volunteering at the Japanese Friendship Garden (JFG) in Balboa Park. With the assistance of their TMI Job Coach Samanta Cazales Hartley, the group did so well it opened up opportunities for three additional TMI IW groups to start volunteering there. The groups enjoy working in the gardens, taking care of the nursery and, at times, helping out in the office. TMI’s partnership with JFG allows our clients to gain invaluable work experience in hopes of obtaining paid employment. "JFG sits on a 12-acre plot and offers a variety of educational programs, exhibits, and festivals to promote diversity,” said JFG Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator Chi Nakata. “We are a nonprofit organization and heavily rely on local support. We are very thankful for our partnership with Toward Maximum Independence, and we hope to grow with TMI volunteers." While Ryan, Derek and Scott all attended Poway Unified School District and are on the spectrum, they are very much their own individuals with hopes and dreams for their future.

Derek watering the gardens

(Derek watering the gardens)

Derek loves animals and nature, so working in the gardens is a dream come true for him! He also loves astronomy and marine life. One day, Derek would like to work at Sea World. Derek is knowledgeable about how to handle animals and is very skilled at it. He also loves parties! According to Derek’s mom, Kris, he would want to have a full-on gala at their home every weekend and invite everyone he knows. Derek continues to work on gaining additional independence in the community. Volunteering at JFG is a step in the right direction!

Ryan working with Job Coach Samanta Cazales Hartley)

(Ryan working with Job Coach Samanta Cazales Hartley)

Ryan loves movies and music. He enjoys attending music therapy, listening to music and playing Guitar Hero. Ryan’s real passion though lies in acting. He takes acting classes with Arms Wide Open and dreams of one day moving to Los Angeles to be an actor. Ryan also loves sports and plays in a basketball league. In addition, Ryan is volunteering with his IW group at the Humane Society, Salvation Army and Sunset Elementary. Wow, Ryan is a very busy guy!

Scott watering the garden

(Scott happy to working outdoors)

Scott did so well at JFG, that he recently started paid employment with Mount-It! in Poway to assist the family owned mounting solutions company in their warehouse. He is very motivated, loves to work and the paid position has made him extremely happy. “It meant a great deal to Scott to obtain paid employment,” said TMI Division Manager Dennis Moran. “Volunteering at the Japanese Friendship Garden gave him an amazing opportunity to gain invaluable experience, which opened the door for paid employment. He has obtained his goal!”

Samanta, Scott, Ryan, Dennis, Derek, and Chi

(Samanta, Derek, Ryan, Dennis, Scott, and Chi)

We can’t wait to see what the future holds for Ryan, Derek and Scott. Way to go, Cool Guys!


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. Like all of us, our clients are born with hopes, dreams and the drive to contribute to society. TMI strives to help our clients to realize their hopes and dreams by providing Employment Solutions, Community Living Services and Family Support Services throughout San Diego, Riverside and Imperial Counties.

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