L to R: Melissa Taylor, Joanne Marszal, Susan Scaperotto

Joanne M. has the perfect job thanks to support from Susan Scaperotto at Work Opportunities Unlimited (WOU)’s West Palm Beach, Florida location. As a Career Resource Specialist, Susan dedicates her days to breaking down barriers to employment for people with disabilities. Joanne had worked with various WOU team members to gain useful experiences through various on-the-job training (OJT) opportunities, but she was interested in pursuing writing as a career. She also required a workplace that would easily accommodate her wheelchair. Joanne began working with Susan to find a job that would meet her needs and aspirations.

Then Susan accompanied Joanne on an interview at Small Fish Big Fish Swim School in West Palm Beach. Melissa, the owner, was busy managing her successful business and needed someone to create content for the swim school’s social media – a position that interested Joanne greatly. She shares, “I’ve always had a creative mind when it comes to words… Writing is what I love doing, and giving people information they need to know.” When earning her degree in Multimedia Journalism, Joanne had fun creating a blog for the first time, and now she helps others by sharing posts about disabilities on her personal social media: “I get responses saying ‘that is exactly what I needed.’” She looks forward to honing her craft as a career path: “I want to learn everything about social media… It is the fastest way to get information out there.”

Joanne began making blog posts for the Small Fish Big Fish Swim School website, but her OJT was interrupted due to COVID. As soon as the business reopened, Joanne returned ready to keep working and learning, and was officially hired by Melissa as a Social Media Assistant in 2022! Joanne’s job goal for 2023 is to take over daily Facebook and Instagram posts and to learn a social media software program. Susan typically stops by each week to check in with Joanne, and she plans to learn the new software alongside Joanne to support her. Susan excels at writing herself, and has a social media background, so she is the perfect support person for Joanne. Joanne says, “I’m glad I have her by my side. I believe writers have editors and Susan is my editor… She makes me a stronger writer.”

Susan says, “It’s important to Joanne to make sure that she is contributing in a way that is valuable to the business. She is very determined, very organized, and very on top of things.” Therefore, in between blog posts, Susan helps Joanne brainstorm additional activities, such as combing through the swim school’s website and presenting ideas for improvement to Melissa. Joanne has also updated staff bios and continues to share ideas for enhancing social media efforts. Melissa appreciates Joanne’s hard work, saying that she “always wants to go above and beyond. She wants to make sure we are succeeding, and takes initiative to come up with marketing ideas for the company.”

Joanne’s blog posts embody the core values of Small Fish Big Fish Swim School: safety, fun, a growth mindset, connections, and passion. Melissa says that without passion, “the other four core values don’t matter. And Joanne is definitely passionate.” Joanne’s posts particularly embrace connections, as a main goal of the swim school’s social media is to reach families throughout the community and emphasize the importance of water safety.

Small Fish Big Fish Swim School is a great fit for Joanne in more ways than one. As Susan says, “The facility is very accessible and very open to people with disabilities.” Melissa offers swim lessons to people as young as 2 months old through adulthood, and also leases out the facility to therapeutic programs for people with special needs and physical disabilities. She loves providing everyone access to swim, because “water is medicine.” Joanne’s desk overlooks the pool, so she can enjoy the swimmers’ cheerful energy. The aquatic educators and visitors all like to say hello to Joanne each day and miss her when she’s not in the office. Joanne loves being part of the team, as well: “Melissa and my coworkers are friendly, helpful, and great to be around.”

Joanne’s position is a dream fit thanks to the supportive staff, accommodating facility, and opportunity to use her writing skills and creativity. Susan sums it up: “I can’t think of a better fit for her.” Joanne says, “I’m happy Melissa welcomed me with open arms, looking past my disability and making me part of the Small Fish Big Fish family.” Congratulations, Joanne!