Jamilette Pichardo, born in Puerto Rico, graduated from Valencia College with her AA and enrolled at the University of Central Florida where she obtained her bachelor’s degree in English Literature. Like many graduates, Jamilette immediately began researching employment opportunities, except Jamilette had concerns that most of her peers did not, she needed to research employment opportunities for individuals receiving Social Security Insurance (SSI) benefits.

“I was born with a condition called cerebral palsy. This was caused due to a lack of oxygen to the brain during delivery. As a result, the muscular mobility of my body is affected.   Therefore, I use a power wheelchair to move around independently. Although I’m in a wheelchair, I do not let this small difference affect what I want to do with my life.”

With determination, Jamilette searched the internet for answers. “I found information on the Social Security website about a program called Ticket To Work. Then I started reading about Work Incentives Planning and Assistance. I had so many questions. So, the next day I called the number on the Social Security website.” She was directed to the Brevard Achievement Center (BAC) for assistance.

When asked what she found most helpful when working with BAC, Jamilette was ecstatic to learn “that even though I am disabled, I have the opportunity to work and become a contributing member of society without losing my medical benefits and my only source of income.”

Jamilette found work as a substitute teacher, and worked at the same school for 7 years, however she wanted to become financially independent and recognized that she would not have been able to accomplish that as a substitute teacher. She called BAC for guidance again and this time was connected with Sarah Jones, a Brevard Achievement Center Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) Coordinator.

“Over the past year I have had the opportunity to get to know this wonderful, kind, and bright individual.  She has been faced with many challenges in her life but remains positive and driven to create her own success.” stated Sarah “I assisted her with understanding how working could impact her benefits and the SSA work incentives available to assist her with reaching her employment goals.”

“I encouraged her to reconnect with Vocational Rehabilitation to receive employment services and support with completing her teaching certifications.” said Sarah.

According to Jamilette, “Sarah has really kept me informed about all my rights and opportunities available to me. It’s something about the way Sarah listens. She is extremely positive and patient. She’s one of the best people I have ever gotten the opportunity to work with. Equally important, she offers me encouragement, support, knowledge, respect, and unconditional kindness. I am so grateful to have her in my corner. “

Jamilette did get re-established with Vocational Rehabilitation and was referred to an Employment Consultant to start exploring employment opportunities.  However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic Jamilette did not feel comfortable pursuing new employment opportunities with her health concerns and potential exposure. Instead, she took this time to pursue her dreams.

“Jamilette recently contacted me and informed me that she completed a short story and submitted it for publication.” Sarah recalled.

Jamilette stated the process of having her story published was nerve wracking, time consuming, and stressful!I knew I always wanted to be a published writer, and in the time of this quarantine I figured it was the best time to practice those skills. I had a Writer’s Market textbook and started researching and submitting query letters.”

About three weeks later she received a letter stating that her story had been accepted into a magazine and not only were they going to publish it, she would be paid for her work! Her story was also the winner of the Kenneth Hinegardner Award!

“Getting my short story published was one of the happiest moments in my life. It was a goal I always wanted to achieve for myself. And now that goal had finally become a reality. It marked the start of my career as a published writer. It felt unreal and like my heart was going to burst out of my chest with excitement.”

Sarah shared in her delight and congratulated her on this major accomplishment.  “She took advantage of this unprecedent and uncertain time and created a success for herself.  This is a prime example of her own personal drive and dedication to be successful and productive.”

Jamilette isn’t finished with writing now that she has a published story, her success has motivated her to pursue a master’s degree in creative writing. “Currently I am working on a book. I’ve always been a writer. It’s one of my greatest passions.”

Finishing with “We are all different, but it shouldn’t be seen as a division or an impediment. Our differences are what makes us stronger and unique.”

We couldn’t agree more Jamilette! Team BAC cannot wait to see how far you will go with your writing career.

You can read Jamilette’s award-winning short story at: https://www.whitecatpublications.com/blueshift-talking-to-the-stars/

For more information on the Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) program, or other employment opportunities, please click HERE

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