- Dee Gerstenkorn
NDEAM 2020: Everyone Deserves a Chance
This is the first of four profile posts to celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) 2020. The purpose of NDEAM is to share information on disability employment issues and celebrate the widespread contributions of America's workers with disabilities. This year's theme is "Increasing Access and Opportunity."
Newly promoted BCI Production Supervisor Stephen Bedsaul is quiet but confident when he speaks, so to hear him talk about his rocky work history early in his career seems unimaginable. “It was horrible,” he said.
Short stints at Pizza Hut, Ponderosa, Casey’s, and even BCI lasted anywhere from two days to one or two months, at best. Living with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) meant he had trouble dealing with people and getting along with his managers and co-workers. Nevertheless, a decision to return to BCI in 2012 would prove to be the end of his bumpy path.
Stephen started at BCI’s Lincoln County facility under the Organizational Employment program. By spring 2015, he moved into the Community Employment program, where he was supported as he worked on-site at two local businesses. While he liked these jobs, he wanted to get back to BCI. Promotions quickly followed with his hiring as Staff Line Worker in February 2019 and leap to Production Supervisor in July 2020.
Even with a big promotion under his belt, Stephen remains grounded. “Without the experiences of my entire journey, I don’t think I would’ve made it this far,” he said. “There were hurdles, but I jumped every one—and I look back on each job as a learning experience, not a failure. They helped me improve my leadership skills so I brought something better to each new position I took.”
Stephen has definitely made his mark at BCI, working his way through the entire Employment Continuum and “exceeding all the expectations for Supervisor in record time,” according to BCI Chief Operating Officer Jack Guthrie.
How did he do it? BCI Social Mission Director Katie Jones, who describes Stephen’s growth as “substantial”, has an idea. “Stephen has struggles just like everybody else, but his willingness to accept and grow from constructive criticism, combined with his awesome positive attitude, are the two key reasons he is where he is today.”
“I love it here and enjoy the people I work with,” Stephen said. “Way back when, I had goals but I never thought I would make something of myself. Now I have accomplished things I never thought I could do. I look back and think, ‘Holy cow!’”
For Stephen and thousands others like him, it all comes down to getting a chance to prove that their abilities outweigh their disability—and he’s thankful for all the companies out there that have inclusive hiring practices.
“I believe that all people deserve a chance, no matter what, to make something of themselves,” he said. “BCI has given me that opportunity, and I can’t express how grateful I am.”