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Teri Alford: All’s Weld That Ends Weld

Submitted By: Dorothy Rosby, Black Hills Works

More and more, Derek is living his dream to be a welder, but it’s been a long journey. Derek came to Black Hills Works in 2011. Black Hills Works is located in Rapid City, South Dakota, and provides quality, person-centered services and supports to adults with disabilities. Through the use of Personal Outcome Measures®, specifically the factors My Community, My Choices, and My Goals, Direct Support Professional Teri Alford was able to better understand and explore outcomes that were important to Derek. In the past, he’s worked in janitorial and lawn care, but Teri found that he wasn’t happy.

As Derek was showing Teri pictures of things that interested him, Teri discovered his passion. Derek showed her a photo of welding helmets and when she asked about those, he lit up. He even had a couple of welding helmets in his closet! Teri would later learn from Derek’s mother that growing up, he had used his welding skills to create chairs, stools, and an overhead light while living on his family’s farm. He had also participated in metal shop while in school.

Teri decided to find a way to support Derek in pursuing his passion again. Together, they used his computer to research businesses in town that had welding supplies. Once a week for more than a year, Derek would choose a store and Teri would accompany him as he looked at welding equipment. Derek became a regular over time, building relationships with the owners and employees. “They all know him by name and greet him personally each time we go,” says Teri. They also gathered information on what Derek would need to become a welder.

They began searching for a way Derek could use his welding skills, talking to people and sharing photos of his work at welding schools and supply stores. Another year passed with no opportunity, but then one day, Teri heard from a local shop owner, Jay Smith of Jay’s Welding who agreed to meet Derek.

Teri and Derek took the photos of Derek’s work and they went to meet Jay. Teri says, “Jay was impressed with Derek and the knowledge that he had even though it was limited.” So in early 2017, Teri began accompanying Derek to Jay’s Welding for 15 minutes each week. Teri says she sat next to Derek, watching him work. “After each weld Derek would make, he would stop, turn to me, lift his helmet, and proudly exclaim ‘Tada,’ then put his helmet back down and continue to weld.”

In the beginning, Jay had Derek work on gardening boxes and plant stands that Smith was making for his home. After a year, Smith increased the time he was spending with Derek and began teaching him new skills. Now they spend 45 minutes every other week and Derek is working on actual projects for customers, such as gates and vehicle panels. As Teri has begun to phase out her support, Jay has become a natural support and Derek is happy to be doing what he loves and continuing to work toward his goal of getting a job as a welder.

Teri is an amazing Direct Support Professional! Once she discovered Derek’s passion she worked very hard over the course of several years to find a path for him to be successful at it. She is persistent and caring and she sees possibilities where others might not.

2018 Direct Support Professional Recognition Week

This article is part of a campaign during the 2018 Direct Support Professional Recognition Week, to acknowledge Direct Support Professionals who are helping people achieve their individually-defined outcomes, through the use of Personal Outcome Measures®. This campaign was developed through a partnership between CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership and The National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP).