Special Needs Student Finds Dream Job
Upstairs at Park Cities Ford, Angela Enright, Katie Jones, and Debbie Wilkes sit down to discuss Katie Jones’s son’s future.
Nick Jones, a senior at Highland Park High School, was born with Down Syndrome and struggles to articulate his words, said Katie Jones, Nick’s mom.
While “Team Nick,” as they call themselves, plan for the future, Nick is downstairs cleaning his all-time favorite car, the Ford Mustang.
In February, Nick joined the team at Park Cities Ford as an intern. He had worked at previous jobs before, but Ford was the dream. He wanted to be around the cars — particularly the Mustang.
The dream was achieved after applying and interviewing with Enright, the dealership’s communications director. Now he works from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, cleaning cars, setting out magazines, and completing other tasks.
“Everything Nick does needs to be done,” Enright said.
It’s not a charity thing, Katie clarifies. Wilkes, an education consultant of D.R. Wilkes Consulting, said he’s an important part of the dealership’s daily functions.
“The rule of supporting a person with a disability on the job is to make sure that they’re an essential factor to the employment site,” Wilkes said. “We want them to get as much from Nick as any other quality employee, and so it’s what can he do.”
When Nick isn’t working, he’s hanging out with the guys. On his birthday this year, the other employees chipped in to give him cash and a surprise party. After the party, Nick and some others tossed around a football outside.
Katie said Nick feels like his work peers are his family.
“I’m so proud,” Katie said. “So very, very proud and I’m learning from him. He’s constantly teaching me new things about himself and that’s one of the things we were talking about in the meeting. I’m hearing all these things he’s doing here I didn’t know he could do, things he’s doing on the computer. He just keeps reminding me, ‘Don’t lower the ceiling. Keep raising it.’”
One area in which Nick is improving at is verbal communication, Katie said.
“He gets frustrated because if he knows he’s going to stumble and fumble a little bit, he will struggle, but he can show me with his phone or draw it or shorten his answer to two words,” she said. “But yeah, he’s definitely interacting with people around here and communicating.”
Several different Park Cities Ford workers help supervise Nick. To help with his tasks, he has a notebook full of the day’s checklists and pictures of different workers, as well as rooms within the dealership, labeled with names so he can better remember.
“He’s more of a visual learner we’ve figured out,” Enright said. “He’s a good reader. He can read and follow instructions.”
And there’s plenty Nick can do. The women of “Team Nick” are constantly learning how far they can push him and what’s the best route for him.
“The sky is the limit,” Wilkes said.
2 thoughts on “Special Needs Student Finds Dream Job”
Good on ya Nick! Keep of the great work!!
My younger brother, Kevin, was born in 1976 with Down’s and I can say we as a society have come a long way. My mother tells me stories of the awful things the doctors told her and my dad after he was born. Things like “he may not walk until he’s 10 or 11 years old”(try 19 months), “you might as well think of putting him in a home for retarded people so he’s not a burden on you and your husband and your ‘normal’ child”. My dad said he almost punched the doctor right then and there. My mom always tried to treat him the same as you would any child…she never coddled him or let him slide just because he was different. If he needed to be punished, he was punished. I believe it is just for that reason that he was able to do things around the same time frame as “normal” kids were. Unlike other parents of special needs kids that she knew, he was always clean and well dressed. I truly believe that if Kevin was “normal”, I wouldn’t be half the man I am today. My brother has been a part of Special Olympics since he was 12 years old…he earned a gold medal in All-Around for his age group as a gymnast at the World Games in 1995 in New Haven, CT, he’s been to the last two World Games in Shanghai, China in 2007 and Athens, Greece in 2011. I think you could say he’s done pretty well! Like I said before, keep it up , Nick…hold your head high, Mrs. Jones, you’ve done a wonderful job!!
Great minds love Fords Nick! Looking forward to Park Cities Ford repairing my Raptor and getting safely back home. Thanks for everything!