When Jensen Kitzinger came to Work Opportunities Unlimited (WOU) for help finding employment, she wasn’t quite sure what she really wanted to do. Luckily, she was paired with a professional: Team Leader Career Resource Specialist Melissa Jebens at WOU’s Martin County, Florida location. WOU’s mission is to help people with barriers to employment find meaningful and fulfilling jobs. To accomplish this, Melissa started by asking Jensen what her interests were. Jensen said she enjoyed working with children, art, and books, and thought a good job goal would be working as a Library Assistant one day. Melissa got right to work to help Jensen find on-the-job (OJT) training opportunities that would give her the skills to succeed and meet her goal.

Pictured L to R: Jenni Paine, Jensen K., Laura (B&N Store Manager) Melissa Jebens

Jensen’s OJTs included working as a counselor at a children’s art camp, cleaning the waiting area at a pediatric therapy office, and stocking supplies at a paint studio. She enjoyed each opportunity, but none was quite right. Then Melissa arranged an interview for Jensen with Laura, a store manager at a local Barnes & Noble (B&N). Laura had previously hired another WOU client and has a sister with Down Syndrome, so she was familiar with the importance of WOU’s work of ensuring successful employment for all. Jensen did so well at her interview with Laura that she was hired on the spot in September 2021. She enjoys shelving books, assisting customers, and ordering out-of-stock items. Laura says that Jensen is “such a pleasure and joy to work with” and that she completes her tasks thoroughly and efficiently.

Part of the reason why Jensen’s position at B&N has been a great fit is her amazing natural supports at work, particularly Laura, as well as Jen, the assistant store manager, and Sarah, a fellow associate. They quickly tuned in to her learning style, realizing that teaching tasks at a slower pace helped Jensen avoid feeling irritable and overwhelmed. With this approach Jensen was able to overcome her emotional barriers and surpass her team’s expectations within a month! Laura says, “Jensen has brought more to this store then she expected. She has a great memory and a great passion to learn. Jensen is eager to try and learn new things even when she doesn’t think she can. She embodies what B&N wants to show. Jensen is genuine and authentic, and I wish for all my booksellers to have these qualities.”

Melissa is pleased with how much progress Jensen has made in controlling her emotions, increasing her focus, and expanding her skillset. She says that Jensen “always makes a good impression on employers and everyone she meets.” Even more importantly, Jensen is proud of herself, acknowledging her personal growth as she celebrates a great first year at B&N as of September 21st! Her work philosophy is, “I like to finish what I start.” Jensen has mastered shelving and locating items in numerous sections of the store, including her favorites, the Children’s and Manga sections. She continues to take extra initiative and will begin processing transactions as well.

Jensen’s success story is a great example of not giving up until you find the right fit. It also showcases how important natural supports are for WOU clients on the job. With WOU and her fellow B&N employees on her side, Jensen is on track for long-term success!