Updated: Mar 16, 2022
Upon meeting Trace you can’t help but smile and instantly feel at ease. An artist at heart, Trace, who has Down syndrome, has always been quite shy. He attended an inclusive kindergarten class with his younger brother, Rogan, who took on the role of Trace’s protector from a very early age and plans to always be there for him. Thankfully, Trace rarely encountered problems with other students while growing up and was welcomed with open arms. Especially by his kindergarten best buddy, Ashley, who adored him. Being in an inclusive classroom was a positive experience for Trace and gave him the opportunity to begin learning early on, which contributed to his desire to continue to want to learn and grow as he matured.
When Trace first came to Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) in 2018 at 27 years old, he was seeking assistance with going back to school to study art. He joined the TMI Tailored Day Services program, which encourages our clients with intellectual and developmental disabilities to self-direct and participate in determining their program day. With the assistance of his TMI Facilitator Renée Steel, Trace began an art course at Mesa Junior College. His love of pencils and shadowing is evident in his amazing detailed art work. College proved to be not only educational for Trace, but also an opportunity for him to grow socially. Renée helped Trace to face his fears and open up to other students, which ultimately contributed to further social acceptance and awareness of individuals with Down syndrome.
“I think Trace being in college benefited not only Trace, but other students,” said Trace’s mom Rosie. “Once people meet him they are able to see him for who he is. He is an amazing boy. He is my buddy.”
Trace loved college, but after a year Renée recognized his personal growth would be better served through employment. Trace and his family agreed. TMI heard his wishes and set out to assist him with meeting his next goal through the Paid Internship Program (PIP), which is designed to encourage competitive integrated employment. This program is funded through the State of California Department of Developmental Services in conjunction with Regional Centers. TMI is the agency responsible for administering the program by directly interacting with employers and clients to foster successful outcomes. Goals of this program include the acquisition of experience and skills for future paid employment, or for the internship itself to lead to full or part time paid employment in the same job. The program has been beneficial for TMI’s clients, many of whom have gone on to obtain regular paid employment.
Trace’s first job interview was at Smart & Final. He made quite the impression and was hired right away! While Trace has enjoyed volunteering at his grandmother’s daycare and worked a seasonal job making boxes, this would be his first non-seasonal paid position. Trace was very excited and even had his uniform laid out a day in advance!
“Working at Smart & Final makes me feel proud, happy and independent,” said Trace.
Trace is doing a great job in his new position where he assists with organizing the shelves and carts. TMI continues to expand its internship opportunities with Smart & Final due to the success clients have had there.
“We are thankful to Smart & Final for giving our clients the opportunity to get their foot in the door to show that they have what it takes to get the job done,” said TMI Division Manager Cathena Ferrero. “Trace is a wonderful person who deserves all good things in his life, including paid employment.”
Described as kind, gentle and enthusiastic by Renée, Trace is taking life one day at a time, but thinks of his future and hopes to one day live independently and get married. He loves spending time with his family and friends, focusing on his art, as well as traveling! He lived in Maryland during high school, has visited New York, Savannah, North Carolina, been on a cruise and recently visited Las Vegas, where he exclaimed “we could live here, they have everything we need!”
We love Trace’s enthusiasm for life. It is certainly a reminder to us all to cherish each day and keep reaching for our goals. We are very proud of you, Trace, and can’t wait to see what the future holds for 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. 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 and Instagram. Together we can share acceptance and awareness, ultimately contributing to further inclusion.