Fifteen years ago, Vista embarked on a journey to provide high-quality services to individuals and their families in the Central Pennsylvania area affected by autism. Meeting their critical needs requires an enthusiastic, talented, and dedicated workforce. To celebrate this milestone in our organization’s history, we are spotlighting staff members who started their employment with Vista in each of the 15 years.
2002 – Jenn Williams
Jenn first learned about Vista after meeting the organization’s founding family, Mike and Deirdre Jarman, and their twin sons, Patrick and Sean, in 1998. She knew immediately that she wanted to be involved somehow with their vision of opening a school and was also eager to get started in her Occupational Therapy (OT) career following her graduation from Elizabethtown College. Jenn had found her calling.
“The title of the OT profession is about meaningful occupations in a person’s life, and I couldn’t help but want to be a part of it to bring my passion and interests together,” she shared. “It hit me hard that there was such a big need out there.”
While waiting for the Vista program to develop, Jenn accepted a position at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. Then in November 2001, she received the long-awaited message of “we’re ready for you” and immediately submitted her resignation to move back to the Hershey area and get to work at Vista. Throughout the past 15 years, she has held the previous roles of Behavior Technician, Occupational Therapist, Program Coordinator, and Outreach Specialist, and currently serves as the Occupational and Physical Therapy Department Supervisor to a team of nine.
What was Vista like in 2002?
“Our first building could have fit inside the lobby of the current high school. Everybody did everything. We went to yard sales to find materials, toys, and furniture. We used to run to Staples all the time because we didn’t have a copier on-site. When we went on community-based instruction trips, we walked everywhere because there was no transportation, which didn’t matter because our commitment to seeing students be a part of their community has always been there from the beginning.”
What has made you stay so long?
“There is no other place like Vista, and that hasn’t changed since we opened. In the beginning, the climate was very tumultuous and the future was uncertain, but the dedication and passion of the people who worked here then and now is the same,” Jenn shared. “People pour their lives and energy and passion into the needs of the clients. The drive is amazing. I knew as soon as I met Mike and Deirdre that this is what I want to do with my life. I love it.”