JT’s Success Story
JT Davis, a TennCare member in the Employment and Community First CHOICES (ECF CHOICES) program, is thriving today with the support of his employer, Direct Support Professional, friends, and family. Growing up around the biker community inspired JT’s love for motorcycles from a young age. Today, JT is an active member of the Bikers Who Care charity organization and is learning motorcycle mechanics in addition to working at Appleton’s Harley-Davidson store in Clarksville, Tennessee. After JT graduated from high school, his mother encouraged him to look for a job. Applying at Appleton’s Harley-Davidson store in his hometown was a no-brainer. Since April 2012, JT has served in a part-time custodial role, working toward his long-term employment goal to become a motorcycle mechanic. JT has a waiting list to complete oil changes for his friends after he masters the service. This may turn into a small business opportunity, for which JT already has a name: Big Daddy’s Lift Ups!
“We say ‘disabilities.’ But they’re not. Everybody does have a purpose here,” emphasizes Mike, the Direct Support Professional employed with Progressive Directions, Inc., who works with JT. This belief is obvious when looking at all that JT has achieved since becoming a member of Employment and Community First CHOICES. JT used to be described as reserved and soft-spoken, but today he enjoys an active lifestyle and rewarding employment at the local motorcycle shop. He’s also more outspoken now and jokes around with his work “family.”
What JT enjoys most about working at Harley-Davidson, aside from earning a paycheck, is socializing with his work “family.” Over the years, JT has built strong friendships at work that he calls family. “JT has never needed a job coach because his Appleton family said, ‘we got this,’” his mother, Margaret Davis explains. At work, JT is fortunate to have incredible natural supports as well as a task list that helps him stay focused and accomplish his daily responsibilities. An average day for JT includes cleaning, sweeping up around the facility, breaking down boxes, and helping with miscellaneous tasks around the shop. JT also has opportunities to try his hand at new tasks. Recently, he assisted with the wrecker service to pick up a motorcycle.
With the help of his Direct Support Professional (DSP), Mike, JT enjoys getting out of the house to shop, go out to eat, go to the movies, and exercise. JT has the world at his fingertips with the support he receives through the Community Integration Support Services benefit offered through Employment and Community First (ECF) CHOICES. When asked how his life has changed because of the ECF program, both he and his mother said in unison, “freedom.” “The Community Integration aspect of ECF CHOICES allows him to make his own choices and do things that he truly wants to do. It has opened up his circle of friends as well,” Margaret says. “JT has a busier social calendar than I ever will,” she chuckles.
“JT is a kind-hearted person and is a breath of fresh air to be around. When JT found out that I also love Japanese movies, such as Godzilla, it forged a strong connection that will last for a lifetime,” Mike recalls.
Mike, the folks at Watson’s Motorcycle shop, and JT’s mother all express their delight in JT’s personal growth and development, especially highlighting how his social confidence has grown through community integration. JT, who used to have a shy and quiet demeaner in social settings, now “cuts up with the guys,” says Ray, who is helping to teach him motorcycle repair at Watson’s shop twice a week. “At first, we had him do little tasks, like taking bolts and parts apart. Gradually, JT increased his abilities. He pays close attention and is a quick learner because of his mechanical mind and good memory,” Ray asserts.
Aside from his passion for motorcycles, JT has many personal goals in mind for his future. One exciting goal is a trip to Japan that he is currently planning with his DSP, Mike. Before this trip, JT hopes to sign up for and take Japanese language classes at the local community college. “JT has had a pretty eclectic life, so if he wants to do it, we try to make sure it happens,” his mother affirms. As JT has proven, if he puts his mind to it, he will surely succeed in any endeavor he sets for himself.