When Sade Schofield was unexpectedly called in to attend a meeting at 11 a.m., this past August 31st, with her supervisor, Penn-Mar Program Manager Andrea Carney, and Maryland Community Living Administrator Gabriel Jones, she was, in her words, “a little scared.” Stoking her concern was Andrea’s straight-faced demeanor when summoning the meeting.
It was one of those “uh-oh, what did I do?” moments on the job, we may have all experienced at some point, that against her better judgement had her wracking her brain trying to think of what it was she did or could have done that would have prompted the meeting.
“I didn’t think I was going to get any good news,” said Sade (pronounced shah-DAY, like the British pop singer). “I automatically thought the worst – that I did something I wasn’t aware of.”
As it turned out, the meeting and its serious overtone was a ruse to drop some great news on the Residential Supervisor and newly accepted Career Ladders participant – she was selected and going to be awarded a Governor’s Citation for Community Living Professional by the Maryland Department of Disabilities and the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Administration. Andrea herself had nominated her, and needless to say, Sade was all at once shocked, overjoyed and honored by the unexpected news.
Sade never set out to be a Direct Support Professional. Prior to joining Penn-Mar, the Baltimore native was a State Board Exam Administrator, a job she admits she came to find very tedious. “Watching people take exams all day, ensuring that everything was running smoothly, and that the nurses, doctors, teachers weren’t cheating, just wasn’t fun at all,” she said.
Knowing she needed to make a change and what fields she was good in, Sade set out in search of a new career path. She came upon Penn-Mar randomly, not ever having heard of the organization, but discovering that she had some familiarity with people with I/DD from her mother’s experience working in special education.
“When I got here I thought I’d give it a test run and see if it was a fit,” she said. “I didn’t really know what I was getting into, and it was a little rocky at the beginning. I considered throwing in the towel at one point, but I got a lot of support and encouragement and since then it’s been smooth sailing.”
Working with Adam
The Governor’s Citation for Community Living Professional recognizes “a DSP who goes above and beyond to support full community participation and membership for those with disabilities.” When the award nomination form came across Andrea’s desk, Sade was the first person she thought of.
For the past two years, Sade has been working one-on-one with Adam, a Penn-Mar resident since 2001. Although, as Residential Supervisor she oversees his home, her primary focus is Adam, who requires an extensive amount of staff intervention due to his diagnosis of anxiety, OCD and Impulse Control Disorder, all of which have made it very difficult for staff to work with him over the years, and which have on occasion landed him in hot water.
“Adam could not keep staff, and I was hesitant about working with him at first,” said Sade. “He can be overwhelming and needs a lot of patience, something I wasn’t sure I had enough of.”
But as Andrea described it, it is through sheer diligence, consistency, patience, and unwavering support that Sade has managed to turn Adam’s life around, and help him grow as a person and open many avenues that may not have been available to him before. Today he is able to develop and maintain relationships with those around him, and his true sense of character and humor has come out to be seen. It is for this reason Andrea nominated her.
In the course of two years, Sade has job coached Adam, fine tuning his work skills, an effort that resulted in Adam completing in just a year what was anticipated to be a two-year job working for the Central York School District. She’s worked closely with him to improve his weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle. When she met Adam he weighed about 230 pounds, but through nutrition and regular exercise his weight is now down to 180 pounds. “Of course everything he lost, I picked up,” she said with an infectious and self-deprecating laugh.
“The relationship they’ve established is incredible,” said Andrea. “They work extremely well together and who he is today is absolutely because of her. I’m ecstatic about Sade receiving this award and recognition. She goes above and beyond every single day, not only within her own position, but within the organization as a whole.”
As Sade sees it, oftentimes with a job, employees feel underappreciated. Maybe they don’t feel rewarded or compensated enough. The first thing she tells everyone coming into the DSP field is, “if you’re in this for the money, you’re not going to last. This is a job your heart really has to be into.”
In the year’s she’s been with Penn-Mar, Sade said she’s always experienced constant appreciation and support for the work she does, from peers, management and parents alike. Receiving the award is icing on the cake, but she added:
“There are so many of us who deserve this, because we all work so hard. So just for me to have been selected is truly an honor. I’m not the only one who puts their heart in their work 100 percent.”