“I always wanted to become an advocate. I love teaching people how to advocate for themselves – and now I am doing it! ” says Marianne Haas, the new Independent Living Advocate for the Center for Independence of Individuals with Disabilities in San Mateo County.
Marianne emigrated from Switzerland 33 years ago and studied special education at Columbia University, graduating with a degree in special ed in 1987. After graduation, she launched a long career as a special ed teacher. “As a teacher,” she notes, “I was always attracted to advocating for students and parents in the school system.” She decided to pursue her passion for advocacy and enrolled in the LightHouse for the Blind’s Employment Immersion Program to explore new career paths and hone her job search skills. She learned practical skills, like “how to do informational interviews, build a strong resume and handle telephone interviews. I like to just be myself in interviews. In the Employment Immersion Program, I learned some tips on how to be myself and present myself in the best way possible. I think the most important thing I learned is to keep moving forward despite difficulty. Just keep at it, don’t give up!”
When the Independent Living Advocate position came up in her job search, Marianne recognized it could be the perfect job for her. Marianne already knew she had a strong interest in advocacy work. Since she was born with almost no vision, she also had lifelong personal experience of living with a disability, as well as abundant experience working with students with disabilities. She thought the combination made her a great fit for the job. Employment Immersion Program Coordinator Justine Harris-Richburgh agreed. “Marianne is one of those personalities that you do not meet every day, but remember forever. Her attitude, drive and pure passion for what’s right could not be a more perfect fit in the role of an advocate. She does not back down from fighting for what she believes in, and that is something I really respect in her. I believe she will go very far in her career as an advocate because she is a person who strives for results and solutions, is not afraid to face challenges and really just wants to be a person people can depend on when help is needed. I am very proud of her and her drive to meet her personal goals no matter setbacks.”
The Center for Independence of Individuals with Disabilities hiring committee thought she was a good fit too: She was hired after two interviews, where she got to practice her new interviewing skills learned at the LightHouse.
Marianne is blossoming in her new position. “I just love helping people find the right resources for them, whether it’s finding housing, applying for social security or accessing peer counseling. I am still learning about all the local resources available. I think my best moment on my new job was when one of my clients said, ‘You may not have found the right resources for me yet, but you have given me hope.’ That made me feel so good, because there is always hope – don’t give up!”
Our next session starts September 23rd, 2014. For more information or to sign-up, contact Justine Harris-Richburgh at 415-694-7366 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Kate Williams at 415-694-7324 or email@example.com.