For Crystal Mars, being a Job Coach is more than just her occupation. It’s a way to improve not only the lives of the people she supports but also to teach her new skills every day.
“I had a family member that worked for AHRC and she was telling me about her job,” Crystal said in her office at Bronx Employment and Business Services. “I have a daughter with a disability so I was interested in finding out more. I took a look at what jobs they offered and was just like ‘Wow, this is what I want to do.’”
A Change of Career
After working in a pharmacy for 13 years, Crystal decided to switch careers and become a Job Coach. “I advocate 100 percent for my people, both at AHRC and at their jobs,” she explained.
Crystal provides support in a number of ways, from teaching job skills to helping workers find out more information about medical services and apartments. “It’s a very hands-on job, and it’s a big difference when you’re the one out there with [the workers]. I’m out there to show them how to do it, not just tell them. If it’s sweeping a floor, then we will learn to sweep this floor together.”
It is Crystal’s personal approach that has won her recognition throughout her two-year tenure with the agency.
“Crystal has proven to be flexible, hard-working, reliable, and able to achieve results from our people through hands-on training and the appropriate follow-through,” Wayne Thomas, Regional Director, EBS Bronx , said. “Her hard work and dedication really make a difference to the people we serve. Through her training and supervision, our employees are able to succeed in a highly competitive work environment.”
Crystal took great pride in spearheading a partnership with SUNY Purchase. In addition to driving employees to and from the upstate college, Crystal said that the project required intensive training.
Keeping it Clean
“A lot of them were new workers just learning how to be porters,” Crystal recalled. “We taught them to work as a team, how to listen to directions, time-management skills, safety, and hygiene. I encouraged them by saying ‘If you can clean this college, you can clean anywhere.’ It was fun and exciting for them to know that they can do this.”
Through working as a Job Coach, Crystal has also learned new strategies to take home to her daughter. “When I get my caseloads it helps me a lot because I see so much of my daughter in many of them,” she said. “I can’t help each person in the same way–different people need different strategies. So that helps me when I go home.”
Crystal said her daughter is in AHRC’s PROMISE program and hopes to enroll in future services once she becomes of age.
Going forward, Crystal has a goal of becoming a supervisor and teaching job coaches successful support strategies. “I want job coaches to interact more. This is not just about observing the work.” She also stressed the importance of effective, constant encouragement towards supporting employees. “Many of our guys think that everything they do can be wrong. But I tell them it’s ok to forget, that it’s ok to repeat questions,” she said. “I am here 24/7 for them!”