2023-24 National APSE Board Member: Robert Kimmel, NJ
The area(s) that best represents your current position/experience:
Family Member of a Person with a Disability, Teacher, University Staff
Describe your history/nature of involvement/interest in promoting competitive integrated employment in your state. Additionally, explain why you are passionate about competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities (no more than 500 words):
I have served on the NJAPSE Board of Directors for the last 5 years. During that time, I have held both the Vice President and President positions, working to position and strengthen the organization to more effectively advocate, educate, and proliferate Employment First initiatives throughout New Jersey. Furthermore, I work at The Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities on the Supported Employment (SE) Team, supervised by the previous National APSE President, Margaret Gilbride. Our primary mission is advancing competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities in NJ through systemic change and capacity building through training and technical assistance to SE providers throughout the state. On a personal note, I believe that CIE for all people with disabilities is not just possible, but necessary. We talk about the value that employment brings to a person’s life, but the value of having people with disabilities in every space where people without disabilities work can not be measured on any single axis. Their participation in the economic fabric of society gives their voices credibility in fiscal conversations, many of which influence supports and funding. Their presence on the worksite changes cultures and value sets, advancing equality, increasing tolerance, and reducing discrimination. Their successes in chosen jobs and careers break stereotypes and advance new mindsets around inclusion and neurodiversity. I need to be a part of this important work.
What relevance does/should APSE and its chapters/members have in national and state conversations regarding equity, diversity, and inclusion (no more than 350 words)?
People with disabilities are always considered last when it comes to EDI conversations. APSE is an organization that should be a leading voice for EDI concerns because the very practice of Employment First has core values that align with ensuring equity and diversity through inclusive, meaningful, and competitive employment. Furthermore, supported employment in the workplace is a proving ground for EDI, providing data and first-hand stories from folks with disabilities that can illuminate successful practices or areas of need. APSE has a unique employment lens on EDI and should be at the table when EDI is discussed for people with disabilities.
What skills, knowledge or lived experience do you have that will contribute to strengthening and growing the financial health of APSE and promoting its mission to advance employment and self-sufficiency for all people with disabilities (no more than 350 words)?
I am a dynamic leader and creative thinker who is always keeping his eye on the big picture. I believe that an organization like APSE has a lot of great intention and energy, but sometimes lacks the bones or follow-through necessary to make action happen. During my time as President of NJAPSE, I recognized that there were many areas we were “reinventing the wheel” and that with the institution of some standardized processes and archiving of important information, we could begin to build a foundation to grow on. Making processes easier allows for our boards and committees to do more meaningful work in the same time frame, including ways to grow membership. Growing the financial health of a body like APSE requires expanding our influence into new circles and brazenly showcasing our membership value. In NJ, we expanded our reach through social networks, reaching out to advocacy organizations, parent groups, educators and administrators, and business owners. We thought of creative ways to take on sponsorships for professional development offerings to increase income while also highlighting businesses or agencies doing great work for people with disabilities. There is so much room for growth, fiscally as well as outreach.
Rob Kimmel is a Training and Consultation Specialist for the Employment and Transition projects at The Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities. Rob provides training, consultation, and technical assistance regarding best practices in Supported Employment and Transition to Adulthood. Prior to his work at The Boggs Center, Rob was a Head Teacher at the Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center of Rutgers University as well as the Assistant Director of Employment and Technology at The Eden School of Eden Autism Services. These experiences have given Rob the opportunity to work with a wide range of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families as they develop the skills needed to navigate the challenges and opportunities they will encounter transitioning to adulthood. Rob is a Doctoral Candidate at the Rutgers Graduate School of Education with a focus on Special Education. He is also a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, a Certified Employment Support Professional, and received his Master’s degree in Teaching from New Jersey City University with focus in Special Education. Lastly, Rob earned his Bachelor of Arts from Rutgers University, with a double major in Communication and Psychology.