Demetrius was only 13 when his life changed forever when a tragic spinal cord injury paralyzed his legs.
He experienced challenges that no child should endure, such as spending 18 months in the hospital and coping with constant pain.
Demetrius’s mother was incarcerated when he was released from the hospital, landing him in foster care. Thanks to a loving and supportive foster mother, he became the only one of his six siblings to graduate from high school. Sadly, he suffered pain and loss again when his foster mother died of lung cancer.
The hardships Demetrius has endured instilled a mature outlook on life and independence.
“You just don’t know if the people who help you today will be there to help you tomorrow,” said Demetrius. “I want to be able to dress myself, manage my own medication and provide for myself.”
He knew finding a job was imperative to self-reliance and achieving his goals. As Demetrius searched for employment, however, he experienced a sobering reality: that many doors close and countless others never open because he uses a wheelchair. His lack of work experience–coupled with his disability–made finding an employer willing to give him a chance seem impossible.
When Demetrius needed help breaking into the work world, he found Goodwill and its Work Adjustment Training (WAT) program for individuals with disabilities. In the WAT program Demetrius worked with an employment specialist to get on-the-job training and experience in one of Goodwill’s retail stores for pre-employment experience. His determination and good work ethic showed, and the specialist recommended him for employment.
“Goodwill gave me an opportunity when no one else would,” he said. “I love my job and the fact that Goodwill respects me for my abilities.”
Demetrius, now 26, is successfully employed as a retail associate at Goodwill. He is also a deacon at his church in Newport News, and he uses his own money to buy food and supplies for people in need.
He aspires to be a public speaker to share his story to advocate for those with disabilities and encourage employers to focus on peoples’ abilities.
As he shared his story of adversity and gratitude, tears rolled down his face. “Working means earning a paycheck that allows me to pay it forward,” he said.
To make a gift to support Goodwill’s programs that provide free training and support to individuals like Demetrius, visit our donation page or contact Laura Dickinson.