With Help from Vocational Rehabilitation, Latoya Bristor Finds the Right Job for Her

Latoya Bristor photo

Tampa, FL – Latoya Bristor is very excited about her new job as a cook’s assistant with one of Tampa’s long-standing family food establishments, Wright’s Gourmet Deli. It was a long and winding road to employment that started while she was still in high school.

Latoya, who has an intellectual disability, came to Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) in 2006 where she met VR Counselor Carol Manalo, and together they charted her course to becoming employed. VR helps people with disabilities get or keep a job.

During high school, she participated in community-based training at Target and Burlington Coat Factory. After she graduated, she went to the Reach program where she worked at St. Joseph’s Hospital doing food prep, washing linens, working in the mailroom, and delivering supplies. She also tried her hand at housekeeping for a motel and as an aide in a nursing home, but struggled finding her niche.

Latoya faced a number of hurdles in finding the right job for her. Unable to drive, she had to learn to use public transportation. Latoya excitedly explains, “You have to read everything, read it twice, and pay attention! You have to keep on kicking and working really hard! You have to keep on looking and fighting for what you want, and you must ask for advice!”

Her breakthrough came in 2012 when she began a one-year culinary training program at Brewster Technical Institute in Tampa where she really seemed to come alive. In fact, she did so well in the program they offered her a one-year internship before she even graduated.

While she was at Brewster, Latoya was referred to The Diversity Initiative’s Supported Employment program where she learned how to look for a job, apply for a job, fill out applications, dress for interviews, and more. Her Job Coach, Mellisa Bryan, helped Latoya prepare for her interview at Wright’s deli after supporting her on the initial phone interview.

They practiced the face-to-face interview and studied the history of Wright’s because every employee must be able to answer specific questions about the family-owned deli. Once Latoya passed these levels, she was ready to take the physical test which entailed moving bags of flour and sugar, vegetables, and platters of meat from one place to another safely.

Latoya loves her job preparing the different types of dressing for salads and sandwiches, prepping bacon for cooking, and seasoning meats. She is also graduating to slicing meats, which is a skill that at first made her very nervous. She states, “Once you know how to handle the knives, you’re okay, but you have to be very careful.”

Deli Manager Jeff Mount says Latoya has been a great addition to their staff. “Everyone loves Latoya because she is such a good soul and has great focus. She’s also very eager to please, hardworking, and is always early for her job. Latoya has so much enthusiasm; you can’t help but be upbeat around her.”

Carol and Mellisa are enormously proud of how far Latoya has come. “It has been wonderful watching the transformation Latoya has made through the years,” says Carol.

VR provided Latoya with training, bus passes, clothing and shoes for school and work, and supported employment. VR also connected Latoya with community resources to help her and her daughter. “VR helped me grow up in life and be what I wanted to be,” says Latoya. “VR is a great program that helps you out with more things than you know! I would recommend this program to everybody!”

About Vocational Rehabilitation
Florida’s Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) is a federal-state program committed to helping people with disabilities become part of America’s workforce. Our employer-focused website, http://www.FLJobConnections.com, allows businesses to search at no charge for employees who are ready to go to work, as well as to post available jobs. VR has 89 offices across Florida, and last year helped 7,214 Floridians with significant disabilities find or keep a job. For more information about VR and its services, call (800) 451-4327 or visit http://www.Rehabworks.org.