A Transition to Success Story:
Talking to Kamal Williams on the phone, it is hard to believe he only left high school a year ago. His voice is smooth and articulate with the polish of a seasoned professional. As an Office Assistant at the University Of Maryland, Kamal thrives in the day-to-day chaos and flow of administrative duties in the Department of Community and Family Medicine.
It wasn’t always that way. Only a few years ago, Kamal was a struggling student with an IEP who was not sure he would get out of high school. Things changed when he started with vocational training and began his transition from a struggling student to a confident, well-respected and happily employed adult.
Kamal is filled with enthusiasm and gratitude for his high-school experience. The school, St. Elizabeth’s, is rooted in the belief that all children, regardless of their challenges, deserve a chance to reach their full potential. Kamal experienced first hand how the school’s unique vision to integrate academic skills with social/emotional development, functional life skills, and vocational training, can create the bridge into adulthood.
During high school, Kamal faced a slew of social challenges that might of prevented him from entering the professional world if he hadn’t had the courage and determination to meet them head on. “I stuttered,” he admits and wasn’t the best communicator. He adds, “I learned to open up and be more open with people.” He also discovered the power of self-advocacy. “I had to speak up and say what I wanted and needed.” This is a lesson he feels all special education students should learn. His future, it seemed, was up to him.
It was during one of his school-supported vocational placements that Kamal discovered he had a passion for administrative work. Kamal worked at a variety of different administrative settings and found that the work suited him. He thinks he inherited a love of the work through his mother who enjoyed a long career in office administration. “She instilled it in me, I guess,” he admits.
As he prepared to leave high school, Kamal was directed to the Workforce and Technology Center, a Division Of Rehabilitation Services program that offers a variety of services to help people with disabilities get ready for work. Kamal built on the foundation laid out by his vocational High School experiences. By focusing on his typing and mastering a variety of administrative computer programs, including PowerPoint and Excel, as well as learning the finer points of business etiquette, Kamal was able to land a job within six months of leaving the program.
His current position gives him the opportunity to perform a variety of vital tasks that keeps the Department of Community and Family Medicine running like a well-oiled machine.
One of the most impressive things about Kamal is his deep sense of gratitude for someone so young. He feels lucky to have had the unwavering support of his family, his school and his co-workers at his new job. “I feel really accomplished. I appreciate everything. I feel blessed. I am humble.”
As he looks down the road to his future Kamal would love to have his own car and his own place to live, but for right now his priority is to help out his own family financially. His determination leaves little doubt that he’ll be able to help them achieve the kind of stability he craves as he continues to discover his own potential and fashion for himself the kind of successful business career that once seemed like only a dream.