Growing with ARCA: Once you start your career at ARCA, you will have many opportunities to advance your career. Below, you will find testimonials from some of our employees, describing how they have progressed since their hire date.
Aaron has been with ARCA for over 12 years. He started with an overnight position on the weekends. Since then, he has worked at several homes, as a job developer and as a human resources assistant. However, he has found his home with the ARCA Literacy Project, where he has worked since 2004. His current position allows him to focus on his interest of teaching employment, computer, reading and writing skills to the over 60 students in the program. His hope is to expand the scope of the program and create new opportunities for a diverse group of student needs in the community. His passion is teaching in a fun atmosphere and having the autonomy to create engaging and creative lesson plans with his team. Recently, the students have launched their own website where they share stories, make new connections, and write reviews.
What do you need to succeed at ARCA? Aaron says “patience, an open mind, the ability to focus on possibilities vs. limitations, a desire to learn and change, and an inherent respect for all people and belief systems. You work with many different personalities and your expectations can’t be too rigid. You need to allow people to be who they are. We are here to enhance potential.”
Derek started at ARCA 9 years ago after the recommendations of a close family friend who was a long term employee of ARCA. He was only 18 years old, the minimum age to be hired at ARCA! He has been promoted in the last year to a lead staff member in one of the ARCA homes and calls it his second home. He finds the job very fulfilling and thrives on the interactions with the individuals in his care. He always strives to have the “best house” at ARCA and describes his team as family. He stays motivated by his commitment to the individuals he serves.
He wants to provide the highest level of care possible as well as a strong support system, so his individuals feel confident to pursue their dreams and goals. He feels passionate about being an advocate for his clients and being their voice when needed. He always ensures efforts are always being focused on the true needs and desires of the people he serves versus someone else’s agenda.
One of the joys he describes is “teaching them something that will last them a lifetime”. Derek’s day is varied with a wide array of interests in his home from drama and art, to karate and sporting events. One of his individuals has worked at a local YMCA for 20 years and also finds time to volunteer at the library once a week. He even helped someone take a one-week cruise to Hawaii last year! Derek says “Everyday is different” and asks “How many people can say you get paid to have fun on your job?”.
He is always looking for great staff to bring new ideas and activities to the home to keep it fresh and interesting. There are always new challenges at ARCA. Derek is now a Heath and Wellness Instructor in this program at ARCA, a 12-week curriculum developed with the University of Illinois, and has proven exceptional results with the population served at ARCA. Best of all, Derek met his wife at ARCA!
Eligio joined ARCA 16 years ago when he was looking for a part-time job to supplement his primary job. At that time, he had just finished culinary school and was pursuing a career in the restaurant business. It didn’t take long for Eligio to realize that this field was very gratifying and gave him immense job satisfaction. “I really made a difference in the lives of others. I found unconditional love and really learned to accept differences and to be thankful for the everyday things that I took for granted”.
Eligio enjoys taking the individuals he serves out in the community and getting paid to have fun! He is proud of the personal recognition he has received over the years with awards and certificates and appreciates the fact that the highest level of management is willing to do anything that is asked of the direct care staff.
One of Eligio’s earliest memories is working with a substitute staff that was filling in for one of the regular staff. Apparently, the regular staff had won a raffle and a day off. The next day he learned that Elaine Solimon, ARCA’s Executive Director, was the person he had worked side by side the night before to help with laundry, personal care and cooking! He was astonished that this was the leader of our agency and was so willing to jump in and do whatever was needed to serve the needs of the individuals in his home. That made a very lasting impression!
Melissa Wright has been at ARCA for a total of 8 years. This was only her 2nd job! Prior to ARCA, she worked in daycare for a year. Her interest in working with people with developmental disabilities was sparked at a young age when she helped out a special needs student during high school. Melissa described this experience as “giving her great joy…just seeing her made me feel happy. It just felt like it was me”.
Melissa knew she had a natural desire to help others and ARCA seemed like a perfect place to work. When she completed her degree in Criminal Justice, she left ARCA for a year to pursue a job in her field of study, but then discovered it just wasn’t the right fit for her. She returned to ARCA and was quickly promoted to the Training Coordinator within the Training Department.
What makes this job right for Melissa? Melissa describes the great sense of satisfaction she receives from giving the individuals in her care another dimension to their life by providing new experiences and opportunities for growth. “I know I am making a difference. I feel appreciated and I know mean a lot to them. It’s special, like a family.” Melissa says her job at ARCA really gives her a sense of purpose and she feels like she has been able to put her skills to work in a variety of positions.
Melissa says, “I never imagined I would be where I am. I truly appreciate people noticing and nurturing my potential.” What are the key components to being successful at ARCA? Melissa says “Patience, compassion, and great communication skills! You must be willing to care enough to notice the small things that bring others happiness and be open minded to different experiences. Think outside the box!” And just like many others that have found love at ARCA, she has met the love of her life, her husband Derek Wright!