Bluejay is a long-time participant and supporter of the Footprints Centre, which is run in partnership between Neil Squire and the Penticton Indian Band (new window).
He first came to Footprints about 10 years ago, pushed by his older brother to find something to do with his life. Since then, he’s grown so much, going to the local college to finish his high school degree and has been a valued employee at his company for over four years.
“I had lots of anxiety and panic attacks, and really it just uplifted me because I wasn’t doing anything [before],” he explains.
“This program helps people with disabilities like me to overcome obstacles that I might not have done without them. [Program Coordinator] Terry [Terbasket] and [Program Manager] Mindy [Rollins] give us a safe place to learn and to grow confidence to achieve goals that we want for ourselves.”
Bluejay, who is Indigenous and a member of the Penticton Indian Band, has Goldenhar syndrome (new window). He has a smaller left hand than his right, and the facial muscles on his left side don’t work.
Over the years, he has participated in a variety of courses and programs at the Footprints Centre, including the Working Together and Distance Computer Comfort programs, learning employment skills and computer skills.
After finishing one such program, Bluejay mentioned going to college to complete his high school education to program manager Mindy. While he initially laughed the idea off, she encouraged him to do it and he decided to give it a try.
It was a challenge and it took time, but he did it.
“I never gave up, I persevered, and I did it,” he says.
After getting his Grade 12, he put the job search skills and the confidence he learned in the Working Together program to work. Four years ago, Bluejay cold called his future boss.
“The same day I cold called him was the same day he said I could come in for an orientation. So I got myself out there and he said you start tomorrow,” Bluejay explains.
Since then, Bluejay has been a valued employee and they trust him with operating their heavy machinery. Just recently, he started training in and operating the rock crusher at the gravel pit.
“The supervisors really like me because I work hard,” he says. “I didn’t realize until I started working that I’m a hard worker.”
With his job, he bought his first vehicle, and even recently upgraded that to a brand new 2020 Ford Ranger. Now, he’s looking at buying a new home.
Way to go, Bluejay!
November is Indigenous Disability Awareness Month (new window) (IDAM). Indigenous peoples of Canada experience a disability rate significantly higher than that of the general population. IDAM brings awareness of these barriers and the issues that Indigenous peoples living with disabilities and their families face every day.