By Paige Kowalski, NJCTS Youth Advocate
As I turned 15, I started my search for a job. I never considered the fact that I would need to mask my TS in a workplace due to the high volume of questions and comments I might receive, but walking into my first ever job interview it occurred to me while I was sitting in the chair across the desk from my employer. I explained to them my Tourette inhibits my motion and gives me chronic pain, to which they responded incredibly positively and with support.
Since being hired at 15, I’ve held many other job positions, the one that challenged me the most was being a Sunday school teacher. My religion is very important to me, and prepping other Jewish children for their b’nai mitzvot seemed like an incredibly amazing opportunity. The first Sunday which I taught, I sat down with my 4th and 5th grade class to tell them a bit about myself. Before expressing my religious identity to them, I shared my diagnosis of Tourette with the class. Explaining to my class that I had TS was an experience unlike any other I’ve had.
Most of the YA talks that I gave to classes were meaningful, but I could never truly connect with the class for longer than that day, but this case was different. Throughout our school year together, I was able to truly educate them on my life with TS along with their normal curriculum. Although I never planned on telling them the ins and outs of my experience with Tourette, I was still able to share enough moments with them in which they asked me questions and I could give them a response that would shape their reactions to other people who may struggle with Tourette. Knowing that I had an impact on the amazing group of kids in front of me who had known nothing about TS in September was so incredible. Watching their responses in class become shaped around tolerance and acceptance of the differences we have within our world and the people we may meet was such a beautiful thing.
I knew that within my search for a job when I graduate college, I would need to be able to advocate for myself and others. Being able to positively impact the group of nine kids that I was lucky to call my students made me set my standards for my job search relatively high, I needed a group like the accepting group I was given to educate, work with, and be able to teach.
What’s been your experience in the work force?