ESH empowers participants like public speaker Nicole Kelly to achieve their goals

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Easter Seals Hawaii Case Coordinator Joanne Getty plays a big part in supporting participant Nicole Kelly in her journey as a public speaker.

Text: Brandi Salas

Photo: Kaydee Johannsen

When Easter Seals Hawaii (ESH) participant Nicole Kelly enters a room, she will greet you with a “hello” and a rough handshake. She’s confident, friendly and even a bit intimidating, but in a good way. This woman is no wallflower, she knows exactly who she is and can easily engage an audience of 50 people. Nicole exemplifies ESH’s mission to empower individuals with disabilities or special needs to achieve their goals and become independent.

This 37-year-old is a seasoned public speaker and the top ESH trainer in safety and emergency procedures at ESH. Nicole has traveled across the country to speak at an international conference, at Special Olympics events and plans to introduce her “Feeling Safe, Being Safe” project to the local community, which trains and teaches individuals with disabilities how to prepare for emergencies or natural disasters.

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A Case Coordinator not only helps set goals for participants and track their progress, but he/she also motivates each participant to go beyond expectations and become independent.

Behind this amazing woman is Case Coordinator, Joanne Getty, who supports Nicole’s talks at events. “Joanne types up my notes and pamphlets, prepares my presentations and tells me when I have to present,” said Nicole. Sometimes Joanne introduces Nicole and her background to the audience. Like Nicole, Joanne believes in safety awareness, she does not share the same love for public speaking.

Aside from being Nicole’s behind-the-scenes coordinator, Joanne has many responsibilities as her Case Coordinator. “We are a jack-of-all-trades,” she said. Case Coordinators help participants decide and set their personal goals, help them work towards accomplishing their goals, keep track of their progress, advocate for themselves and much more.

Joanne discovered her passion when she moved to Hawaii from Washington five years ago to be closer to family. She was looking for a job that would give back to the community. “In college, I took some Disability Education classes and volunteered at The Arc. I also held a lot of jobs to help put myself through college and one of them at a local facility for young children with autism. I guess it struck a chord with me. I also worked with youth at an alternative school and decided that I loved working with individuals with disabilities but also loved working with older people. That’s why this job seemed perfect,” she said.

Joanne is just one of many other caring Case Coordinators at ESH. Currently, she works with participants in the Adult Day Health program as well as the participants in the Work Crew program and several participants out in the community with their Personal Assistance/Habilitation (PAB) workers. She said, “The number (of Case Coordinators) is constantly changing because we are always changing and growing the programs.”

In Joanne’s words, an ESH Case Coordinator is an advocate and supporter. “I think that we are here to make sure they (the participants) are getting what they want out of services and that their voices are being heard,” she said. “I make sure they know the steps to take to set a goal and keep it functional and meaningful to the person. It helps to always involve the staff that is working with each participant and get their feedback as well.”

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ESH participant Nicole Kelly is just one of many participants that Joanne supports. They have both changed each others’ lives through ESH.

At ESH, a Case Coordinator explores many opportunities for participants and supports them in completing their goals, like speaking at international conferences and events. “I think it’s exciting to do something different and to see what people like Nicole are really capable of when given these exciting opportunities. It’s different from things we have offered before and gives us incentive to offer these things in the future, “said Joanne.

Working with Nicole and seeing her progress with such confidence has been exciting and fulfilling for Joanne. “She changes the way I look at things.”

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