Santa Barbara District Success Stories

Names below may have been changed to protect privacy

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Paralegal , Registered Nurse , University Professor , Special Education Teacher , Employment Program Representative , Data Entry Clerk , Soccer Star

  • Paralegal

    When T.I. applied for services in May 2007, she told Robin Riendearu, her Senior Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, that she was very interested in being a Paralegal. Through vocational counseling and guidance discussions, T.I. and Robin researched the labor market, job duties, training requirements, and school programs for Paralegal. An important consideration was to be home in the evening with her children and carry out her responsibilities as a Mom.

    T.I. maintained almost straight A's, with just an occasional B, and made the Dean's list every term. She tutored other students and completed her training with a 3.89 GPA.

    After graduating in October 2009, she passed the National Association Legal Assistants certification exam on her first try!

    T.I. secured an externship with the Public Defender's office, which gave her an opportunity to participate in a court trial. That externship led to a paid, long-term temporary, assignment with a prestigious Law Office where she was hired permanently just 3 months later.

    T.I. told Robin that she enjoys the study of Law and has continued taking online law courses on her own. She also enjoys putting "CP" (Certified Paralegal) after her name. She has definitely earned those credentials!

    It wasn't always an easy road, going back to school while raising a family, and dealing with the barriers posed by a significant disability. She faced the obstacles, and never gave up on herself. In recognition of her efforts, she received a Paralegal Association Scholarship.

    T.I. expressed her appreciation for the help she received, "I can't stress enough how wonderful it was to work with Robin. She is very supportive and went out of her way to help me. I don't think I would have made it through my program if it weren't for her. It seemed like whenever there was an obstacle of any kind; Robin helped me overcome it; whether it was at the school…, my car breaking down or getting certified as a paralegal. Robin is the greatest."

    We totally agree!

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  • Registered Nurse

    Disability: Brain tumor removal that resulted in cognition impairment of his memory and speech processing abilities.

    As a registered nurse, R was also the chief anesthetist at the time of his brain tumor diagnosis. For over 25 years, R has "thoroughly enjoyed" his work, specifically "the helping aspect to nursing." The brain tumor removal left R with speech and memory impairments as well as a very low professional self-worth. At the intake appointment, R appeared confused and unsure as to what nursing job tasks he could no longer perform and questioned the appropriateness of him returning to the nursing field. After consulting with his neuropsychologist, it was determined R could not return to anesthetic work because of the precision it required, but would be able to return to the nursing field. RC Coombs and R were most selective in choosing which specific nursing positions would be compatible with his limitations and abilities. After several months, a lot of DOR counseling and support, and turning down what was determined an inappropriate nursing position, he accepted a position with a local hospital and was able to re-enter the nursing field through their "Preceptor Program" which provided the close supervision and support R felt strongly he needed. R excessively expressed his gratitude to the Department. It was very important to him that when he re-entered the workplace he would do it responsibly and felt by having the Department's assistance he was ethically able to re-enter the workplace and with confidence knowing the Department was there through the whole process.

    Six months later, RC Coombs received an email update from R that included an attachment of him being honored in the hospital's newsletter. He was described as being an exceptional and valued employee.


    Extensive Vocational Exploration, Counseling and Guidance that provided encouragement and support. Assistive Technology Device (PDA to retrieve medication/dosage information, and reminder notes that assisted greatly with his memory impairment), Placement Clothing. Information and Referral Service that assisted Robert with job leads.

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  • University Professor

    Disability: Guillain-Barre Syndrome

    "It was like being buried alive in my own skin," says E. S., PhD. He contracted acute Guillain-Barre Syndrome, which resulted in almost complete paralysis initially, and in Dr. S's words, "nearly killed him". He was hospitalized for a year and a half.

    A referral from T. R., the Return to Work Coordinator at a local university, to SVRC-QRP Susan Powell was the beginning of collaborative effort to return Dr. S to his job as a professor at the university. DOR arranged for an assessment by Project Threshold to develop recommendations to improve independence at home and the ability to complete necessary tasks at work. They used the work site and home assessment done by Project Threshold to guide them in their purchases. The university purchased equipment for the work setting to create an accessible and functional work environment. They also purchased a computer and adaptive technology including Dragon Naturally Speaking. A specialized computer was purchased that allowed Dr. S to compose music and store music compositions. As a result of the efforts of numerous people at the university, in many departments (Human Resources, Black Studies, Information Technology) in collaboration with DOR staff and resources - it worked.

    He successfully returned to work at the university, teaching in the Black Studies Department, composing music, conducting, and pursuing his research. The DOR staff were invited to a CD music release party the following year celebrating the release of a recording of new music compositions by the professor that were written using the adaptive technology provided in his Rehabilitation Plan.

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  • Special Education Teacher

    Disabilities: Processing disorders in attention, auditory, visual and sensory-motor skills causing deficits in reading and writing.

    B came to the Department as a Junior in college through the TTP program and at that time was unsure of a specific employment goal or if he would even be able to complete his college training due to his history of academic challenges. At the beginning he struggled with his curriculum but, proved receptive to books on tape and various learning accommodations. Subsequently, B became very successful with his academics that led to his decision to pursue a teaching credential. This was a long case that has an interesting successful ending. This past year B graduated from a local university with a teaching credential in special education and upon his graduation, was immediately offered a special education teaching position from the very same special education classroom he attended when in high school! He excitedly accepted the position, however, he later declined the position since he also received another job offer from a nearby high school with a higher pay and qualified for a teacher grant program that paid all of his outstanding student loans. B's expression of gratitude to RC Coombs was unique in that he not only said thank you to RC Coombs for her encouragement, but also to the San Luis Obispo support staff and to the Department as an entity that provides needed services to all individuals with disabilities. B has informed RC Coombs he is planning at the end of the school year to make student-referrals from his class that he believes require assistance to successfully enter the workforce.


    Vocational Assessment, Exploration & Counseling, Assistive Technology, Books on Tape, Vocational Training, Transportation Assistance, Interview Clothing.

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  • Employment Program Representative

    Disability: Back Injury

    A. G., a former Marine veteran of Desert Shield and Desert Storm, worked as a Field Recruiter with a nearby city. A. G. injured her back (herniated disc L4-5 with radicuopathy) and could no longer perform her job duties.

    A. G. was referred to DOR by State Disability Evaluation. A. G. expressed interest for job training in a new and more sedentary career. Through counseling and guidance, A. G. decided on a office skills training program through Goodwill Industries, Oxnard. A. G. successfully completed the office skills program. She then participated in employment preparation skills training through Goodwill Industries. The employment preparation training enabled A. G. to obtain employment with the Employment Development Department (EDD), as an Employment Program Representative where she is able to use transferable skills and her clerical training. A. G. states, she "now helps others obtain job training and employment".

    A. G. told her SVRC, Antonia Najera, "I was fearful of falling through the cracks of social services and the challenges of the economy. It is hard out there, but with determination and a great team of support, you can succeed and get your life back on track".

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  • Data Entry Clerk

    When D.A. applied for services with DOR, he informed his SVRC, Antonia Najera, that he was "20-something years old, on SSI, never worked a day in my life, and dropped out of high school in the 11th grade. I have no experience, no interview skills, and no real job skills. Who is going to hire me?"

    Through counseling and guidance, D chose the vocational goal of Clerk, General and selected training through a Community Rehabilitation Provider. He began training in a warehouse setting and quickly informed his SVRC that 8 hours a day was "too much" for him. He didn't want to quit, so he and his counselor agreed to a reduced shift of 5 hours a day. D said he still found the five hours a day tough but he eventually increased his tolerance to work an 8 hour shift.

    After the warehouse, D and his SVRC agreed that gaining office sills was the next goal. D began with basic typing and progressed through vital computer skills such as Word and Excel.

    After training, D participated in Job Seeking Skills workshops where he learned how to interview and dress appropriately for the job. He told his SVRC, "I honestly didn't think it would work out and it wasn't until I got a full-time job that I realized how much it helped!"

    In three months time, D was hired by T, inc. doing Data Entry which he really enjoys.

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  • Soccer Star

    Disability: Deafness

    M is a 19-year old, profoundly deaf, student with exceptional talent in soccer. Her parents discovered her deafness when she was a toddler, and with lots of love and support, they have guided her and provided opportunities to get into a variety of sports and other activities. She had a great love for soccer and they figured out that goalie seemed to be her best position - it takes full advantage of her height (5' 11") and it gives her the benefit of having all the players and action in front of her.

    When she graduated high school, she knew she would be moving to Santa Barbara, so she could play for a local college team and also continue training with the same coach for the U.S. Deaf National Women's Soccer Team, hoping to compete in the Deaflympics in Taipei this year. At the same time, she applied to DOR as a senior so, she could have assistance with making the transition to college, career planning, and learn more about support services for Deaf students. At the local college, she has done exceedingly well as a star player for the Women's Soccer team, earning many shut-outs as the team goalie, and several stories about her talent have already been highlighted in the local paper.

    She has continued to train with the U.S. Deaf Women's team for the past several years and was chosen as a starter. However, she had to make a heart-wrenching decision to withdraw from the Deaflympics. The painful decision was reached after much consideration and advisement. Due to the college semester being in full swing during the 2-3 weeks of the Deaflympics, M would miss the fall semester, would not be able to play for her college team, and would not be able to transfer to a four-year university next year and play Division I soccer, which is a priority for her. She is an integral part of her local college team and she is hoping to be a very strong player and earn an athletic scholarship to a university that can showcase her talents on the national level.

    In addition to her soccer talents, she is a very capable student and is doing quite well in her packed academic schedule. After she decides where she'll transfer, she plans to earn her teaching credential and wants to work with kids and athletics, perhaps as a teacher of Adaptive P. E. M has a wonderfully warm personality, and is a natural leader among her teammates and friends. She is a great role model for succeeding despite the challenges she has faced! No doubt you will be seeing more about her on the national women's soccer scene as her sports career develops, and no one deserves it more than M!

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