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National Service and Inclusion Project

Inclusion: The active engagement of people with disabilities as service members in all levels of national and community service

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The Benefits of Inclusion: Stories Shared

Member Stories: Inclusive Stories of Service from Iowa

Josh Beytien

AmeriCorps Member at Dubuque Center for History at Loras College, Iowa

Josh Beytien enters information from an old playbill from the Grand Opera House.

Schmidt, E. M. (2012, February 6). 19-year-old catches the 'past' for his first career touchdown. Telegraph Herald, pp. 1A-2A.

There aren't many 19-year-olds with the ambition to start their own business, but Dubuquer Josh Beytien is one of them. He recently launched Mammoth Scanning Company, a business that creates categorized electronic files of documents and photographs, along with storage and retrieval services. The entrepreneurial effort is equally impressive because Beytien is autistic.

Beytien, a graduate of Dubuque Senior High School, has a variety of skills, but his parents, Craig and Alyson Beytien, knew he probably wasn't well-suited for a 9-to-5 working environment. Then in his senior year, Josh landed an AmeriCorps position at the Dubuque Center for History at Loras College and discovered a new area of interest and proficiency: scanning and cataloguing images and documents.

"I love the old times," he said, explaining that he enjoyed working with photos from the past century alongside an archivist.

Josh's parents realized that his work skills carried some significance in an increasingly electronic era, and when Web research revealed there was a local niche for electronic document storage and retrieval, the idea for a business was born.

When an official business plan had been drafted, a professional at Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services served as a business consultant, reviewing the proposal to make sure it was viable. The agency then helped Josh obtain the grants he needed to get started.

"It's important for taxpayers to know that their state dollars do go toward putting people to work," said Ellen Fliehler, a rehabilitation counselor at Vocational Rehabilitation Services, who has worked with the Beytien's. With funding in hand, Josh was able to purchase the hardware needed, most important of which was a high-quality scanner, and the software for creating an online environment for clients.

Josh came up with the business title - explaining that the mammoth taps into his interest with prehistoric time - and the fitting motto "Where the Past is Present." Soon it was time to start wooing clients. Josh prepared a PowerPoint presentation for his first business pitch and his parents came along as guests to watch the presentation, which secured him a contract with Hills & Dales.

Since then, Josh has obtained another client, the Grand Opera House. He is working on scanning and cataloguing playbills dating back to the 1890s for the arts center. Mammoth Scanning does not do restoration work, but preserves files and photos electronically in their current condition. The company specializes in web security, providing a system in the Microsoft network cloud where clients can opt to store their information. Craig said Josh would eventually like to tap into another market, individuals with family photographs they would like in electronic form.

And will the business someday expand to include more than its founder? "Definitely," said Josh, who already has some specific rules in place for future employees. "No disrespectful music, there's no rudeness," he said. "And no foul language, too."

The equipment for Mammoth Scanning Company is set up on a desk in Josh's room, under a shelf lined with books and some prehistoric animal figurines keeping a watchful eye. The documents and notes for Josh's current project are neatly arranged near the two-sided scanner, and it is at this station Josh can quickly transfer a document or photo from paper to screen.

Many successful businesses have started in a home-based setting, Craig said. "People should not be intimated by a special needs run-and-owned business," he added. "Our clients have been happy with what (Josh’s) done. He's very, very detail-oriented."

For Josh and his parents, the hope is that the business will be successful enough that he will not need state or federal assistance in the future. "Our goal is for Josh to be independent," Craig said. "We see (the business) as a means to do that." This goal is within reach, according to Fliehler, who credited Josh's parents with both helping him progress personally and in helping his business take shape. "A lot of it starts with attitude," she said.

Craig said Josh's family is pleased he has found work that he enjoys and gives him a heightened sense of purpose. "What parent doesn't want their child to find something they're good at?" Craig asked, adding that he is proud of what his son has accomplished so far. "He's doing a great job," Craig said. "He's a good kid."

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Thomas Dirth

AmeriCorps Member, Campus Compact, Iowa

AmeriCorps member Thomas Dirth standing on a ladder, working on a home building project. AmeriCorps member Thomas Dirth standing on a ladder, painting the side of a house.

As an individual with cerebral palsy, many activities are more exhausting to me than to the average person. Growing up, I was told that physical therapy and exercise was the number one way to work on building my endurance, mainly so I would be able to be active and productive as I got older. Things would not come easy for me, as I was told, so I would need to work all the more diligently to stay up with others, be it physically, academically, or socially. It seems only natural, therefore, that the same thing can be said about serving others. I decided to take part in AmeriCorps’ Iowa Campus Compact program primarily because I was feeling a strong call to volunteer and serve others. The crux was that I did not feel confident in my own ability to follow through with such an important yet challenging call. I knew from past experience that if the going got tough early on, if I felt that I was incapable of serving meaningfully or in a way that suited my capabilities, there was a chance that I might get disgruntled and quit altogether. Acknowledging that quitting was not an option, I turned to the Iowa Campus Compact program as a kind of service therapy. I would be able to build up my service muscles with others, sharing our experiences and holding each other accountable.

I must say that I was very happy with my decision to join the Iowa Campus Compact program. First and foremost it forced me to step it up in terms of seeking out service opportunities. For example, I joined the Best Buddies program at Wartburg. Each week I would get together with my buddy to watch movies or WWE wrestling, or to go bowling. Best Buddies is a program I might have missed out entirely had I not entered ICAP.

Another organization which saw me more often was Habitat for Humanity. Prior to the ICAP program, I had only cursory experiences with Habitat through Wartburg’s new student orientation service days, but when I considered service possibilities for my 300 hours alongside the rewarding experience I had with Habitat, it became a natural fit. Wartburg’s Habitat student organization would sponsor building days periodically, but periodically became not enough for me. I took the initiative to get on the email list of the Habitat chapter from my area, so I could join them at their building sites more often. From helping to hang dry wall to nailing in hurricane brackets, I found the experience to be deeply gratifying, and once again, if it was not for ICAP, I would not have sought out this opportunity.

The most memorable experience that I encountered as part of my AmeriCorps experience was the service trip in which I participated. Although going on a spring break service trip was on my bucket list during my time at Wartburg, I felt much better prepared and ready for full service immersion after nearly six months of training. I was on a trip that went down to New Orleans to help clean up after Hurricane Katrina, and I think had it not been for my strengthened service muscles, I might not have made it. The labor that our group put in comparison to the monumental tasks that remained after we departed was enough to turn anyone off to the idea of service. What was the point? What could I do? But I knew I had grown stronger than that, and I knew that my service muscles would be a little sore, but that only meant that they would be stronger the next day. I would take away from that experience renewed resolve to serve and volunteer in my own community.

I consider my 300 hours of service, the requirement of the ICAP program, to be not the impetus, but the rock upon which my love for service was built. I had the desire, but I did not have the knowledge or the will to serve when I began the program. Over the course of one year attending college, however, I went from a flabby dreamer to a well-sculpted doer, and it was because I entrusted AmeriCorps with building my personal service-exercise program. One of my priorities nowadays is to stay service-fit, so I can actively and productively contribute to my community through service and volunteerism.

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Steve Thomas

AmeriCorps*VISTA, Corridor Recovery, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Photo, Steve Thomas. Steve Thomas covered in white paint, washing at a sink.

Flood recovery efforts is testimony to positive human potential. In June 2008, Cedar Rapids was drowned in water, mud, muck and anguish. I have witnessed over the past three years, the power of human potential with countless volunteers. Volunteers all had one goal in mind and that was to help, serve and nurture. Risk taking ongoing with mold, mud and smell but no matter the circumstance, words of encouragement and utilization of God given talents were displayed continually. Volunteers—young and old from all over the USA were all pitching in, using their muscles, heart and soul—were taking care of business in the heartland of Iowa. Positive choices were displayed, enthusiasm a given and work effort was inspiring. Witnessing the power of positive choice and seeing the power of the human body in mind, spirit consuming endless difficult work is like the best experience one could ever be involved with. Risk taking in helping others and taking on the challenges that flood duty entails has shown me the power of human potential when utilized with choice of helping others is what life is all about. As a member of the AmeriCorps*VISTA program, I can't help but think how fruitful positiveness and perseverance does not take a backseat to negativity or giving up among those that choose to make a positive difference in people's life when the going gets rough. Each of us knows how to make a positive choice and to serve others who need help when the circumstances arise. Personally I have had to deal with Lou Gehrig's disease amidst the risk taking of above work but I would not do anything different because adversity is life but positiveness as displayed overcomes all odds. What an awesome positive experience that I have seen is like the best medicine anyone could have no matter what personal health concerns are being dealt with. Giving up is the easy way. However take note as witnessed with flood recovery work that too many people are in action, facing life's challenges in a grandiose positive demeanor and that is the only way to live personally and collectively.

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Ted Garland - AmeriCorps member 2007, 2008

Ted, an AmeriCorps member now in his second term, serves at the Institute for Human Development at Northern Arizona University promoting public awareness activities. However, he had some doubts about participating in national service. “I initially thought I wouldn’t get accepted, but in the Arizona AmeriCorps I got through my first term and I didn’t want to leave.” Ted, a person with neurological disabilities, is a role model in his community. He says, “I’m showing them by example what they can do, too. They can participate in national service and live by the slogan, I will get things done for America.” Ted’s public speaking ability makes this service position a great fit for him.


Howard Wilson - Volunteer Foster Grandparent 2008

Howard is a Foster Grandparent at the “Genesis and Light” after school program. He drives a van daily to pick up students and bring them to the program. Among peers, staff and the children, Howard, who has a physical disability, is famous for his enthusiasm. Fellow Foster Grandparents say he inspires them. Both Howard and his wife serve together and strive to make a difference in the lives of others. In regards to service, Howard says, "You have to do whatever you can to help."


Daniel, student - 2007 to 2008 school year

Daniel and Sarah are high school students participating in a Learn and Serve project that combined curriculum and service. Students produced books that were then sent to Kenyan children receiving aid from the American Red Cross Association. Daniel, who does not communicate verbally, helped Sarah to create a book by pointing to written words, which she then added to their collaborative story. Sarah initially thought she would be teaching Daniel, who also has a cognitive disability. By the end of the service, she said, "I learned new things from him. Daniel taught me some American Sign Language." The project helped the community understand that service is valuable, not only because everybody can participate, but everyone can also learn. In fact, this activity is now a model for other inclusive service learning projects.


Shannon McCue - VISTA Alumnae 2005 to 2006

Shannon was a VISTA member who served in the College of Public and Community Service community technology lab at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. She helped users, including students with and without disabilities from low-income communities, to learn computer skills, other multimedia applications and assistive technologies. Through her VISTA experience, Shannon, who has Muscular Dystrophy, gained an awareness of accessibility issues in community technology centers. She followed her VISTA service with a year long fellowship at a University Center of Excellence on Developmental Disabilities. There she conducted research on accessibility in technology centers in low-income housing projects. Currently Shannon works as a Peer Guide and as the Information and Database Manager at an Independent Living Center. She credits her VISTA experience with providing a background that developed her interest in creating access to technology for people with disabilities. She explains, "My VISTA experience gave me the knowledge and experience to advocate for people with disabilities and promote access to technology."


Andre Robinson - AmeriCorps member 2008

Andre is a part-time AmeriCorps member in the Michigan AmeriCorps Partnership at “Southeastern Village”, who has neurological disabilities. He has experience in two after school projects. In the first, Andre developed a program that conveyed his experiences as a person with a disability to other young people facing a variety of life's challenges. Currently, he is researching safe routes for neighborhood school children. Andre hopes to continue working within diverse communities to benefit young people, especially males, and help them develop leadership skills. The AmeriCorps service experience has enabled him to develop the skills needed to be a community role model. Andre shares his philosophy of service by saying, "If I can help one person to realize and live his dreams, I'll be happy."


Dawn Facka - AmeriCorps*VISTA Alumna 2001

Dawn Facka, was a service-learning coordinator with AmeriCorps*VISTA, advocated for people with disabilities and served as a role model for young men and women with disabilities that came to serve in AmeriCorps Programs. In addition, she taught others about the importance of inclusion and facilitates disability awareness and diversity training to AmeriCorps*NCCC members.

Dawn, who has a hearing disability, strove to create a work environment that was welcoming and understanding to those individuals with disabilities by advocating for community involvement and supporting organizations that supported and helped individuals with disabilities. She said that "If AmeriCorps, had not opened the doors of opportunity to me, I most likely would still be ashamed and embarrassed of who I am and [how] society has labeled me. I would still be apologizing to people who did not tolerate or accept my hearing loss. I can't begin to show my gratitude … to AmeriCorps for showing me another world."


Joe Tierney - AmeriCorps*NCCC Alumnus 2001 and 2002

Joe Tierney dedicated two years of his life to service with AmeriCorps*NCCC. During these years Joe, who has a traumatic brain injury, tutored children, built houses, designed and built wheelchair ramps, surveyed and mapped a historical graveyard, blazed trails, worked at a camp for children and adults with disabilities, and much more. Of his time there he writes, "Throughout my service I met some amazing individuals, traveled to some fascinating locations, and learned a variety of skills, but most importantly my service gave me the opportunity to recover, the ability to experience life with a smile. I made the decision to join AmeriCorps because I felt an obligation to give back, I understood that I was very fortunate to have recovered and that I would have never done it without the help of many thoughtful, committed, competent individuals."


*Jared - Learn and Serve America Alumnus 2002

Jared was a high school student with disabilities who participated fully in a water quality testing initiative though a school-based service-learning project in Western Massachusetts. During the project, Jared spoke of all that he learned about water quality and the effects on the environment. His family and teachers were impressed with the project because it provided Jared with a meaningful experience to give back to his community as well as taught him vital life skills. His mother spoke of the project as being one of the few opportunities Jared had to mingle with peers outside of special education.


2008 AmeriCorps SUPERVISORS have offered success stories through these submissions…

*Gerald - AmeriCorps member

*Mary, a supervisor, writes, “Gerald is an AmeriCorps member who serves in the “Youth in Arts Program” which provides quality experience in the arts for all youth in school. Gerald is a media artist who has autism. His responsibilities at the program include creating an Accessible Materials workshop for teachers, designing inclusive lesson plans using the arts to build understanding about people with disabilities, supporting volunteer mentors, and leading art classes.

Early in Gerald’s service, he and I talked about how the program could best provide a reasonable accommodation to assist him so that he could perform all of his essential duties. He now has a flexible schedule which allows him to adjust his hours. As a result, he is an active contributor to workshops and carries out the multiple tasks of his vital role serving the youth.”

MATT AmeriCorps member

*Joe, a Supervisor writes, “Matt is an AmeriCorps member who serves by performing a variety of office tasks at his service site. He has been highly influential and motivating for fellow members who have a mental health disability. Accommodations such as a flexible schedule and head phones assist Matt so that he can concentrate and complete his duties. I have recognized the importance of having a diverse team and appreciate how all the other members of the team see Matt as a positive role model. Through Matt’s example, other members of the team with disabilities have progressed in their various positions and have stayed motivated to serve the duration of their service year.”

*DAVID AmeriCorps member

*Robert, a supervisor offers this story about David, an AmeriCorps member, who has disabilities and serves by contributing content to several projects focusing on the issue of disability awareness. Robert says, “David types and performs a variety of office tasks with assistance from fellow service team members. As a result of the team members providing accommodations to David, they have increased their own awareness of accessibility issues in the service environment. In addition, through these accommodations, David has been able to share his expertise on disability issues to promote the disability awareness projects at his service program.”

*Joy AmeriCorps member

*Ellen, a supervisor said, “Joy is an AmeriCorps member who took part in program activities such as a river clean up, stocking shelves at a food pantry and building and sorting furniture. Joy, who has a disability, was provided with accommodations such as access to several types of assistive technologies such as microphones to use during meetings, to Zoomtext, a software to increase computer text, and to large print keyboards. In addition, Joy was provided with materials for meetings and trainings in formats that could benefit all members with various learning styles, for example, PowerPoint presentations using large text and clear, concise language and electronically sending out detailed map directions before site meetings. Creating access so that Joy could participate in all aspects of service, helped other staff gain valuable knowledge about how to recruit and manage members with a disability and provided a model of how to make all service sites inclusive.”

*JOANNA AmeriCorps member

*Carol, a supervisor says, “Joanna, is an AmeriCorps member who serves in a Boys & Girls Club as an instructor. Joanna, who has a physical disability, interacts very well with the children in the club and assists with activities of the after-school intramural sports league events. Because Joanna is a positive role model, the children, ages 5-18, are able to gain a greater awareness about people with disabilities and their abilities to contribute to their communities. Joanna brings diversity to the team and she impacts other members by increasing their awareness of disability.”

* name has been changed for privacy

For more multimedia and stories, please see this page: inclusive stories in action.

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©The National Service Inclusion Project (NSIP) is a training and technical assistance provider on disability inclusion. NSIP partners with the Association on University Centers on Disability, National Council on Independent Living, Association on Higher Education and Disability and National Down Syndrome Congress to build connections between disability organizations and all CNCS grantees, including national directs, to increase the participation of people with disabilities in national service.