Legacy Emanuel Partnership Helps Students with Disabilities

Amelia Acala
Amelia Acala working at the 24-Hour Heart Beat Cafe

A good work ethic, a job, and a savings plan paid off for Amelia Acala. Before her senior year started, she was rolling in a car purchased with money saved from her customer service job with Legacy Emanuel’s Food and Nutrition Services.

The Rex Putnam High School graduate came to the hospital almost two years ago through a partnership Legacy Health has with the Oregon Youth Transition Program YTP), a statewide vocational rehabilitation services program based in public schools. The program matches students with disabilities or emotional issues, who are motivated to work, with local employers. The program is designed to help students make career choices through a paid employment experience.

“My counselor encouraged me to apply for this program because I’m organized, always got to class on time and I’d ask a lot of questions in classes, all skills needed for a job,” says Amelia. “But, I wasn’t handed the job,” she giggles. “I had to go through
several interviews at Emanuel.”

Once onboard, the now 19-year-old worked part-time, even through a busy senior year, which included prom and graduation. “My supervisor made it happen,” says Amelia. “It was really nice to have a car because I was on-call and could get here quickly after class.” Amelia usually started work at 2 p.m. and clocked several hours of work after school.

Tressa Graham, a supervisor with Legacy Health’s Food and Nutrition Services, says Amelia was one of the first YTP students. “She was the face of our program,” says Tressa. “When the YTP asks me what kind of student employee are we looking for, I say find me another Amelia. She is a
pleasure to work with and I’ve watched her grow from a high school student to a very responsible and dependable individual.”

Amelia’s bright and infectious smile is suited for greeting customers and taking food orders at the hospital’s 24 -Hour Heart Beat Café or as a hostess delivering meal carts to patient rooms at Emanuel. Her disability is invisible to most but behind the constant smile was a student struggling to communicate with her peers, teachers and even her family. “I didn’t speak as earlier as my brother or sister and I mumbled until I was about five,” says Amelia. “My grandma, a school teacher, convinced my parents to get my hearing checked because she thought I might be deaf or have a learning disability.” Turns out Amelia could hear but did need extra time learning and got the necessary accommodations to help her succeed in school and now in college. “I discovered how to balance work and school. I graduated high school on time and have completed a year of community college, all while working part-time.”

Legacy Health celebrates Amelia and the many student workers from the YTP. “This partnership brings us students who have the ability to work and who have a documented disability,” says Pamela Weatherspoon, Legacy Health’s diversity program manager. “People with disabilities bring perspective, talent, and creativity to our workplaces, just like anyone else.”

For more information contact:
Vicki Guinn
Legacy Emanuel Public Relations

By Vicki Guinn