Jayla Williams: How Fashion Brings This Retailer Fulfillment

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Jayla Williams: How Fashion Brings This Retailer Fulfillment

This Ability Works Award Winner used DRS services to help her get out of her shell and into the workforce

Jayla Williams works at Old Navy as a brand associate, a job ideally suited for someone with the character traits of being nice, funny, creative and fashionable.

Jayla grew up in West Milford, where she attended and graduated from South Harrison High School in 2018.

While in high school, Jayla was referred to the West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) for assistance with her transition from school to work. Jayla has Down syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes developmental delays. She was extremely shy and insecure, and she needed help with acquiring independent living and life skills and with learning more about work and job options.

According to DRS Branch Office Manager Lori Cumberledge, who was also Jayla’s vocational rehabilitation counselor, DRS contracted with the ARC of Harrison County, a community rehabilitation provider so Jayla could participate in life skills training and a community-based assessment, where she got to visit work sites to learn more about herself and the types of jobs she might like or dislike.

One of the job sites Jayla got to try was Old Navy, which she liked best, and the store’s management was interested in hiring Jayla. So, DRS contracted with the ARC to provide a work skills assessment and job coaching services to help Jayla learn the job tasks she would be required to perform at the store. Unfortunately, the pandemic put things on hold for Jayla for a while, but ultimately her training got back on track, and she began working at Old Navy.

Cumberledge explained how well Jayla progressed with the help of her first job coach. She learned how to clean the fitting rooms and sort and place stock appropriately. This assistance has also helped her to overcome some of her shyness and insecurity.

Senior Lead Maddie Lipscomb, store manager, describes Old Navy as a company of style whose goal is to find a fit and style for everyone. Lipscomb explained that Jayla’s responsibilities include maintaining and cleaning the fitting rooms, and she helps with whatever they need her to do. She credits her with being kind and friendly to everyone, and she believes Jayla has grown and become more outgoing since she first started working there.

For Jayla, one of her favorite tasks so far has been preparing and displaying the flip flops when they came into the store for the summer season. She loved the vibrant colors of this variety of shoes.

For Jayla, getting a job was important so she could make some money, make some friends and be around people. She’s very proud of becoming more independent and accomplishing her goals. But the best part of her job is her coworkers. She enjoys working with them.

Jayla continues to have a job coach to help her as needed on her job to maintain skills or learn new tasks. Her current job coach is through Job Squad, Inc., and the service cost is covered by the Intellectual/Developmental Disability (I/DD) waiver. With this service, Jayla continues to move forward with her skills in the workplace, including greeting customers, something she was not comfortable with in the beginning due to her shyness and insecurities.

According to Kristi Belt, a career counselor with Job Squad, Jayla continuously brings a positive presence into the store. She wants to do a good job and enjoys learning new things. And she really likes putting outfits together and playing the role of fashionista.

Cumberledge believes Jayla makes a positive impression on everyone who comes into the store and empowers others who may be doubtful of their capabilities to work. Holding a job is important to Jayla. It makes her feel valued. She is contributing to the community, and it gives her a sense of independence and fulfillment.

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Jayla Williams was selected as an Ability Works Award Winner in 2022. The annual Ability Works Awards honor one outstanding consumer from each of the agency’s six districts, coinciding each October with National Disability Employment Awareness Month.