News & Events

Direct Care Employees, Supervisors Celebrate E-Badge Graduation

During a Jan. 24 ceremony at our Chappaqua headquarters, 15 Ability Beyond employees graduated from the E-Badge Academy, a national certification program for careforce members that has been made freely available to select New York agencies through a competitive grant program.

The academy—offered by the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP)— helped our staff and frontline supervisors strengthen their life-changing skills in alignment with industry standards; and gain certification in core competencies such as communications, person-centered practices, evaluation and observation, safety, advocacy, and crisis prevention and intervention.

“The program touched on pretty much every area of our daily lives in this work,” said Chappaqua Day Program Manager Carol Drummond. “Even the information I already knew was powerful to hear from a new perspective. In this field, you can never learn enough.”

Certification through the E-Badge Academy also corresponds with a lump sum bonus payment when completed.

“It’s been an incredible opportunity for the Ability Beyond careforce to learn more and earn more,” said Kyla Andreasen, our Talent Development and Training Supervisor. “They are the best at what they do, and they deserve the recognition.”

The Power of Partnership

The E-Badge Academy brings together on-the-ground employees from organizations such as Ability Beyond, the national perspective and efforts of the NADSP, and state-level investment in community wellbeing from the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD).

OPWDD funded NADSP to facilitate the program with national grant dollars for workforce development. In turn, Ability Beyond was able to offer the careforce a paid opportunity to learn.

“NADSP have been great partners to work with,” said Human Resources Director Maren Milliard. “They truly believe in this workforce, and they are committed to strengthening professional standards as well as appreciation for what the nonprofit careforce contributes to our world.”

Putting in the Time

For graduates, the E-Badge represents 50 hours of accredited coursework, completed on the clock while balancing academic responsibilities with an unwavering commitment to the individuals we serve.

Drummond said the balancing act was well worth it, because it helped her see her leadership—and impact—in a new light.

“I’ve been at Ability Beyond for over 25 years, and the assignments we completed in the E-Badge Academy gave me the opportunity to reflect on everything I’ve experienced,” she said. “In the moment, you’re doing what you do because it’s your job. But sitting back and writing about it, you realize that you have made a profound difference in people’s lives.”

Sashauna Gordon, Assistant Manager for the Without Walls (WOW) program, appreciated the invitation to unpack her work with Ability Beyond, where she began as a life skills instructor in November 2021.

“Everything hits you,” Gordon said. “All the situations that you’ve gone through, all the experiences. You realize how they’ve helped you learn more and build your skills for the future.”

Drummond said the NADSP coursework put people with disabilities at its center, underscoring the importance of their agency in their own lives; and helped her understand some of the unique challenges that direct support professionals face at work, especially in the post-lockdown world.

“The program really asked, ‘How do you not bring your own personal feelings into the lives of the people you serve? How do you step back and let people be all they can be, and make their own choices?’” she said. “I now feel more sensitive to each individual, as well as staff and supervisor workload—how it affects us, and when we need to step back so we don’t burn out.”

Committed to Professional Development

In 2007, Ability Beyond launched our own professional development program, called Pathways to Excellence, that rewards employees with career and salary milestones as they complete NADSP-accredited coursework.

For that reason, some of our participants had a headstart on the E-Badge coursework. Yet it’s in the nature of Ability Beyond to seek continuous education, for professional development and personal growth.

Similarly, Milliard said the agency itself is always on the lookout for ways to discover, build, and celebrate the abilities of all people—including the careforce that makes our impact possible.

“The No. 1 way that we advance our mission is by having the very best employees at Ability Beyond,” Milliard said.

That takes measurable effort—like the effort that went into our competitive application for inclusion in the E-Badge Academy. Based on a strong proposal and the merits of our award-winning work, Ability Beyond was awarded 50 seats that can be refilled as staff and frontline supervisors graduate.

“Ability Beyond always wants to be at the forefront of new opportunities to strengthen our careforce,” said Talent Development and Training Manager Rachael Kaiser-Levitz, who identified the E-Badge Academy grant. “When I saw this opportunity, it made logical sense for us to apply—and we’re thrilled with the outcome.”

Take Action

Would you like to be part of a team that offers both personal and professional growth opportunities, along with flexible hours and the chance to advance, then check out Ability Beyond today!

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