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Nov 28

Lynchburg Va. Project SEARCH Student Lands Dream Job

By Stand Up, Inc. | Transition Services

Patrons of Blackwater Coffee Company wait patiently in line as a young dark-haired man prepares a list of drinks made to order. He maintains a pleasant demeanor, even as the line at the counter inches out into the mall's open area. They see his sharp, precise movements as he skillfully mixes various liquids together, pouring them in their cups without spilling a drop. This Lynchburg Va. Project SEARCH student's movements bring to mind a well-oiled machine, dutifully completing each task in a quick, timely manner.

Desmond does not work from a place of obligation and apathy. He works because he truly wants to –and has gone through much more to get this job than the average person.

The customers see Desmond's dedication. They do not see his disability. They don't see the hours of training it took to reach his goal of becoming a barista. With the aid of Project SEARCH, Desmond could cultivate his talents and succeed with hard work and perseverance.

A open burlap bag of coffee beans spread out on a table

Lynchburg Va. Project SEARCH

Project SEARCH's primary aim is to secure competitive employment for people with disabilities. The program breaks down stereotypes by increasing the public's expectations of people with significant disabilities.

Stand Up partners with the Lynchburg Va. Project SEARCH program to provide young people with significant disabilities the opportunity to contribute to their communities. 

Students take part in a variety of internships within the host hospital/business where they gain competitive, transferable and marketable job skills. They also gain increased independence, confidence, and self-esteem.

Project SEARCH logo

Lynchburg Va. Project SEARCH students also get work based individualized coaching, instruction and feedback. Businesses also enjoy a partnership where they have access to a new, diverse, talent stream with skills that match labor needs. They also gain interns/employees with disabilities who serve as a role model for customers.

The idea for this program originated in 1996, when Director of the Emergency Department at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Erin Riehle could not find employees for entry-level jobs that involved restocking supplies. Her solution involved adopting the Center's major diversity initiative and reaching out to Great Oaks Career Campuses and the Hamilton County Board of Developmental Disability Services to recruit people with disabilities. Together with these organizations, the filling a handful of jobs evolved into what would become Project SEARCH.

Desmond is one exceptional example out of the many individuals that have participated and flourished in Project SEARCH. The program allowed him to reach his potential. Desmond realizes that his disability does not have to be a barrier to hold him back. He can not only prove this to others –but also to himself.

A picture of Desmond Meadows
Nov 26

Gabriela Hoyos

By Stand Up, Inc. | Employment Specialist

Gabriela Hoyos


Employment Specialist

Hello! I am an employment specialist with the Lynchburg team here at Stand Up Inc.

I arrived in Lynchburg in August 2018 to start my Master's degree in psychology at Liberty University. Previously, I had graduated with my bachelors from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, OK. Prior to moving to Lynchburg, I had done research for my alma mater in the topics of sex and human trafficking. Furthermore, I got the chance to travel to Guatemala, India, Colombia, and Haiti to present my research and help women and children living in those slums. Moreover, in hopes for a purposeful position, I found Stand Up Inc and immediately connected with their vision and mission.

My favorite part of being an employment specialist is the instant ability to connect with the employees and help them become the best versions of themselves. I come from not knowing them to helping them reach their goals. There is nothing like it!

My first job ever was working as an office assistant for Oral Roberts University.

I chose to work in this field because I am passionate about people overcoming any difficulty in light of something better. I am encouraged and highly motivated to witness people who have struggled finally receive a moment of reward and success. Ultimately, I wanted to infuse hope in people, which is the primary reason I chose to work with Stand Up Inc.

The best lesson I have ever learned from a customer is to take it easy and breathe.

My hobbies include cooking delicious healthy vegan dishes, cleaning, singing, playing piano and guitar, going to the farmer’s market, traveling, and watching crime shows.

Favorite Quote:

“Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.” - C.S. Lewis


Nov 20

Laura Wingfield

By Stand Up, Inc. | Employment Specialist

Laura Wingfield


Employment Specialist

Laura received her Bachelor’s degree in Communication from George Mason University in 2016.

She worked as a team-building facilitator at an outdoor challenge course and was promoted to assistant director of staff development. Here Laura gained valuable skills in experiential education, workplace training, and communication which she uses daily in her work with Stand Up, Inc.

Laura came to Stand Up in December 2017. She loves empowering individuals to expand their problem-solving skills and enrich their workplace experiences by seeking new opportunities. One of Laura’s missions is to show her customers how immense their contributions are to their workplaces and their communities.

Laura’s first job was in food service at a retirement home, where she appreciated the opportunity to learn from individuals with expansive and diverse life experiences. Laura also has experience in outdoor adventure trip-leading and organic farming.

Laura thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2018. Her interests include health, fitness, and sustainability. In her free time, she enjoys volunteering at Lynchburg Grows, reading, and listening to podcasts.

Favorite Quote:

“The conductor of an orchestra doesn’t make a sound.” – Benjamin Zander


Nov 19

Janie Blankenship

By Stand Up, Inc. | Employment Specialist

Janie Blankenship


Employment Specialist

Janie is and organized and disciplined professional with extensive background in Human Services and Psychology. She received her dual Bachelors of Science in Human Services and Psychology with Cum Laude status from Old Dominion University in 2016.

Janie seeks to utilize her education and work experience in a position to support individuals, families, and the community.

Favorite Quote:

“Nothing can keep you from reaching your goals. Do It!”


Sep 25

Nicole Paige

By Stand Up, Inc. | Employment Specialist

Nicole Paige


Employment Specialist

Nicole has an associates degree with the concentration in psychology, from the University of Phoenix and is currently working on her bachelors in psychology at the University of Phoenix.

Nicole has been a Group Home Manager at Leumas Lighted Life and prior to that I was Assistant Director at Larche Blue Ridge Mountains. She worked with people with intellectual disabilities in both positions.

Nicole loves walking, reading, and spending time with family.

It brings joy to her heart to see people succeed in challenges.

Favorite quote: 

“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” – Maya Angelou


Aug 22

Kimberly Emerson

By Stand Up, Inc. | Skills Instructor

Kimberly Emerson


Skills Instructor

Kimberly's experience working with people with disabilities has been a lifelong journey. She attributes this path to her mother, whom always surrounded her with, and had a dedication to, helping others achieve a meaningful, rewarding life.

She began working in supported employment in 2001 as an Employment Specialist. This job quickly lead to her learning sign language to assist under served customers in her area. She became Vice President of Administration for the same company in 2007, but missed working with people. In 2009 her and her husband bought a bakery with the purpose of providing real employment opportunities to people with disabilities.  

When Kimberly was introduced to Stand Up's STEP program she knew immediately that this was her passion. To reach individuals at an early stage and teach them work ethic and skills has been the most rewarding experience she has had in this line of work.

Kimberly loves to see the progression of the students and knows that she is teaching them lifelong skills that will assist them in laying down a firm foundation for their future. 

Kimberly's hobbies are: baking, cooking, and most things outside in nature.

Favorite quote: 

"My only hope is that, even for a moment, I helped you see the world a little bit different." ~Wilder


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