May is Mental Health Awareness Month. In recognition of this event, here’s the story of one employee at Human Technologies Corporation in Utica who has overcome mental illness in her professional career and her personal life.
The culture and benefits of being a part of the Human Technologies Corporation (HTC) family go way beyond just work – employees have the opportunity to learn, grow and share newfound knowledge to help the entire workforce become stronger both at work and home.
A year ago, Sandy Shade was probably the quietest employee at HTC. She has now surprised everyone – including herself – and decided to really step up and get involved, enhance her skills, learn a variety of jobs, and become a voice for herself and her coworkers. Sandy shares that “people with disabilities are understood here at HTC. There, they are useful, needed, important, productive and happy.” This experience at HTC has helped Sandy continue to combat her debilitating mental health disorders as she is increasingly gaining confidence to participate, tell her story and to help others.
Each year, HTC sends employees to Washington to the NISH Grassroots Advocacy Conference, which allows people with significant disabilities a chance to speak with Congressional leaders, using their own voice to talk about the positive impact obtaining employment with the Ability One Program and other job opportunities has had on their lives. Sandy was the most recent HTC representative to travel to Washington in June 2011. Sandy was able to meet and talk with Congressman Richard Hanna and a representative from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s office, as well as sit in the House of Representatives and listen to Congress during its session. Following Sandy’s visit with Congressman Hanna, he took the steps to become an Ability One Champion and an advocate for people with significant disabilities in his role as a legislative leader.
Sandy is using her experiences in Washington DC to assist HTC in forming an internal Speaker’s Bureau. The Bureau’s intent is self-advocacy. Sandy is now helping others formulate their stories so they too can speak for themselves and to represent workers with disabilities in our nation’s capital, do presentations in the community for different groups such as Rotary, lead tours for visitors of HTC, and go to Albany to talk about current issues for those with disabilities.
“Shortly after my experience of going to Washington, the Speaker’s Bureau was formed. Someone had the insight to help people like me who have a fear of speaking in public, learn to gain confidence and overcome the fears involved,” Sandy said. “I did not have a written speech prepared. I wasn’t even planning to speak, but I saw other people get up and speak and I told myself, if they can do it, so can I. So I just got up at the last minute and jumped in the water knowing it might be cold, because I really wanted to go swimming. I wanted to tell my story, too.
“I am assisting Claudia Hartz with our newly formed Speaker’s Bureau at HTC. Our objective is to educate, enlighten and inform as many people as we possibly can about what HTC has to offer for products, services, and employment, especially for people with disabilities and barriers to employment.”
Sandy is still a fairly quiet unassuming woman, but now she’s a woman who has found her voice and has a powerful message that she is willing to share.