October Featured Customer: Following Nick’s Lead

by Nick Cocchiarella and Kathia Reynandez

Nick used research, life, and professional experiences to work together in developing job leads. Nick’s strong interest in disability advocacy, paired with his BA in Communication and Journalism from University of St. Thomas, guided him to freelancing opportunities and building skills as a participant in programs promoting policy and legislative change. Discovery had shown him the way; he is doing all the walking. Here is his journey in his own words:

When I began working with Kaposia at the end of February, I admit I was pretty skeptical. The previous company I was with had gone under after a year of little progress, and job opportunities seemed scarce. The Discovery process seemed long and drawn out. I was impatient; I wanted a job with a steady income, and as far as I cared, everything else could wait.

Then, this summer happened.

In late May, my Career Consultant, Kathia, and I sat down with Bryan Boyce, director of Cow Tipping Press, a publishing company in Minneapolis that seeks to publish the writings of people with intellectual disabilities. We interviewed each other over coffee, talked about future opportunities, and… “Oh, by the way, you should really get involved with our summer classes!”

After a certain amount of panicking—wait…what? I have summer plans already, and I’ve never worked with people with intellectual disabilities before—I agreed to give the volunteering-to-teaching track a shot.

The classes themselves were an experience—I had never really been in a position like it, and I enjoyed being able to help people use their writing voice. I was even inspired to present my work in a public community reading. Networking opportunities came from this connection that I never would have expected. This opportunity introduced me to Barbara Bridges, the director of Art to Change the World, which lead to my current gig as a freelance writer. As their writer, I interview and write stories about our members—the changemakers who employ the arts, education, and organizational partnerships to invoke positive social change. These opportunities continued to lead me to success; I was also offered an opportunity in the Hear Me Now project by WFNU Frogtown Community radio to teach podcasting skills to people with disabilities.

Kathia and I also had an info meeting with the Institute of Community Integration in mid-August. They presented me the opportunity of co-authorship of a chapter in a book to be published nationwide. I will write about self-advocacy, choice, and preference, and it will involve interviewing a number self-advocates as part of the research. Following their suggestions, we recently met with the University of Minnesota’s Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities Program. This fall, I will be applying to join the fellowship.

Networking and making professional connections has never been an easy process for me. Thanks to Discovery, I have the tools to successfully do so.

Nick’s professional and personal work can be found online:

https://www.tommiemedia.com/tag/nick-cocchiarella/

https://minneapolismentality.wordpress.com/