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2024 National APSE Board Nominee: Pamela Grider-Cross, AR

2024 National APSE Board of Directors At-Large Candidate

MEET THE NOMINEES FOR THE 2024 NATIONAL APSE BOARD OF DIRECTORS: CLICK to read about all nominees before the election ends on March 18.

The area(s) that best represents your current position/experience:

Service Provider or Manager, Employer or Business Owner

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:

My involvement and interest in promoting competitive integrated employment in my state started in 1994 as an Employment Specialist for Arkansas Rehabilitation Services Inc (ARS). This position was my first introduction to the world of disability and realizing the disparities and marginalization among persons with disabilities. While in this position, I traveled throughout the state sharing information on the importance of equality, inclusion, and accessibility. From that, I developed several advisory committees in several counties, and one of the goals was to bring employers to the table in those areas, educate them, and collaborate on employment efforts that would allow their companies to hire people with disabilities with competitive wages and employer-sponsored healthcare.  In 2000, I had a bright idea, which was to open my own business for employment placement for persons with disabilities. We started as a vendor for ARS in the following programs: Supportive Employment. In 2003, we added the following services: TicketToWork (TTW) and Community Employment Services (CES). In 2010, we added Discovery, and in 2016, we added Pre-Employment Transition Services Inc (Pre-EST). In 2023, I partnered with another agency to write an educational and training plan for the state and partnered with a Fortune 500 retail company, which allowed us to use their base stores as training sites. Once they graduate from the 4-week program, they have the option to be hired by the store with competitive wages and healthcare. These programs allowed me to expand my knowledge and bring visibility to the community about the importance of equity, inclusion, and accessibility for all.  In 2006, I attended a meeting referencing APSE. The state of Arkansas was interested in restarting the state chapter. I, along with other like-minded individuals, began the process of gathering the necessary paperwork for a state chapter. From 2006 until 2007, I served as the treasurer, not by choice. During this period, I worked with the membership and collaborated with employers and other stakeholders in bringing Subject Matter Experts to Arkansas for the APSE conferences.  From 2008 through 2018, I served as president of the Arkansas APSE chapter. Under my tenure, I aimed to move Arkansas to a more robust transformation for providers and focus on offering employment first as a preferred option. So, I introduced Arkansas to the following programs through our chapter conferences to increase visibility and awareness of Employment First and increase the state numbers for employing persons with disabilities. By bringing Co-Director and Education Consultant Susan Rutkowski from National Project Search during our 2012 conference Employment for ALL! The 2016 conference brought about the implementation of the Employment First State Leadership Mentoring Program (EFSLMP) initiative in Arkansas. Through these efforts, we were excited about bringing the ODEP’s Provider Transformation Workshop Boot Camp Series to Arkansas. Through these efforts, we had approximately 24 providers join the workshop, and out of the 24, only 4 didn’t transition over to Employment First as a preferred first option.  n 2023, I undertook initiatives to increase knowledge, expand awareness, and enhance visibility regarding The Employment First Act in the state of Arkansas. One of these efforts involved creating a white paper to advocate for the passage of the Employment First Act into law and the establishment of an official Employment First Office. Leading these endeavors, I collaborated with various stakeholders to support what eventually became SB443 Bill. I successfully secured the sponsorship of a Senator and a member of the House of Representatives to champion the Employment First Act. The Bill was presented to the Senate and the House of Representatives. However, due to the requested language changes, it was decided to place the Bill in an Interim Study to allow time for necessary revisions.  Currently, we are diligently working on implementing the required language changes and preparing to reschedule the presentation of the Bill to the House of Senate. Our goal remains steadfast: to advocate for the passage of the Employment First Act, thus furthering opportunities for individuals with disabilities to access meaningful employment.  My passion is fueled by my determination to sustain these discussions, ensuring that we are prepared for the changes that promote competitive integrated employment in our state. These efforts are integral in building momentum for a cross-system initiative aimed at assisting Providers, the Legislative Assembly, Employers, and Stakeholders in adopting new business models, and the Employment First Act in the state of Arkansas are crucial steps toward increasing employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. These models, alongside the Employment First approach as the preferred option, are essential for fostering inclusive workplaces and ensuring equal access to employment for individuals with disabilities.

What relevance does/should APSE and its chapters/members have in national and state conversations regarding equity, diversity, and inclusion?

APSE and its chapters/members should have significant relevance in national and state conversations regarding equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI). From a lens of expertise and perspective to enrich discussions on EDI by sharing the challenges persons with disabilities have and are facing today, and advocating for solutions that promote equal opportunities in the workforce.

APSE can advocate policies at both the national and state levels that promote EDI for persons with disabilities in employment to include supporting legislation that enhances accessibility, strengthens anti-discrimination laws, and expands funding for programs that facilitate job training and placement for persons with disabilities. And APSE can continue to promote EDI within its organizations and membership. Ensuring that individuals from diverse backgrounds and perspectives are represented within APSE. leadership and membership, the organization can better reflect the communities it serves and enhance its credibility as a champion for equity and inclusion.

By doing so, APSE can contribute to creating more inclusive societies where individuals with disabilities have equal opportunities to participate and succeed in the workforce.

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?

I have skills and knowledge in the following:  Strategic Planning: I can assist in developing strategic plans and initiatives to expand APSE’s reach, increase its funding sources, and diversify its revenue streams. This may involve identifying potential grant opportunities, corporate sponsorships, or fundraising campaigns aligned with APSE’s mission and values.  Accessibility Expertise: I have knowledge of accessibility standards and best practices, which can be applied to ensure that APSE’s resources and events are accessible to find resources, and events are accessible to individuals with disabilities. By prioritizing accessibility, APSE can demonstrate its commitment to inclusivity and reach a broader audience of stakeholders.  Continuous Learning and Adaptability: I can rapidly acquire new information and adapt to changing circumstances, which is essential for navigating the complex landscape of nonprofit management.  By staying informed about emerging trends, and best practices, I can help APSE remain agile and responsive to evolving needs and opportunities.  

Biography

Pamela Michelle Grider- Cross Biography  Pamela is a dedicated advocate for promoting competitive integrated employment and advancing the rights of individuals with disabilities. Her journey began in 1993 when she served as an Employment Specialist for Arkansas Rehabilitation Services Inc (ARS). In this role, Pamela embarked on statewide travel, passionately disseminating information about the importance of equality, inclusion, and accessibility in the workforce. Her experiences during this time exposed her to the disparities and marginalization faced by individuals with disabilities, igniting her commitment to effecting change.  Driven by her mission, Pamela spearheaded the development of numerous advisory committees across multiple counties. One of her primary objectives was to engage employers in meaningful dialogue, educating them about the benefits of hiring individuals with disabilities. Through her efforts, she fostered collaboration to create employment opportunities with competitive wages and comprehensive employer-sponsored healthcare coverage for all.  Pamela’s dedication to this cause is further underscored by her educational background and extensive certifications. She holds a B. A. in Sociology and Anthropology, and a minor in Drama. She received the 2013 National Apse Rebecca Mc Donald Award for her exceptional leadership, tireless volunteerism, and extraordinary commitment to the mission and vision of APSE in her work in her state chapter, Certification in Rehabilitation Counseling for the Deaf and Blind from Northern Illinois University, along with several other local, state, national, and international certifications. Pamela’s multifaceted expertise and unwavering commitment make her a driving force in advancing the rights and opportunities of individuals with disabilities.  In 2006, her journey with APSE (Association of People Supporting Employment First) began when she attended a pivotal meeting referencing the organization. Recognizing the importance of its mission, she joined forces with like-minded individuals to re-establish the state chapter in Arkansas. Serving as the Arkansas APSE treasurer from 2006 to 2007, she played a crucial role in facilitating collaboration between members, employers, and stakeholders to advance employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.  Throughout her tenure, she focused on introducing innovative programs and initiatives aimed at promoting competitive integrated employment and raising awareness of Employment First principles. These efforts culminated in significant achievements, such as the implementation of the Employment First State Leadership Mentoring Program (EFSLMP) and the introduction of the ODEP’s Provider Transformation Workshop Boot Camp Series to Arkansas. Additionally, she led initiatives to advocate for the passage of the Employment First Act, collaborating with various agencies and securing sponsorship for the SB443 Bill.  Despite encountering challenges and setbacks, her dedication to this cause remains unwavering. She is committed to sustaining discussions and driving change to ensure that individuals with disabilities have access to meaningful employment opportunities. Her leadership roles within APSE, both at the state and national levels, reflect my ongoing commitment to improving the lives of individuals with disabilities and promoting inclusive workplaces.  Looking ahead, she is eager to continue her work as the Employment First chairperson for the Arkansas State APSE chapter and as the Vice President of the National APSE Board of Directors. Together, we can continue to make strides towards a more inclusive and equitable society, where every individual has the opportunity to thrive in the workforce.  Pamela Michelle Grider-Cross  Respectfully,  

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