For Kathleen A. Petkauskos and Megan Northup, increasing the employment rate for people with disabilities isn’t just their job; it’s quite literally their lives, according to a 5 for Good segment on WCVB-TV. Northup is a woman with autism. Petkauskos is director of UMass Medical School’s Work Without Limits program. Together, they found mentoring success.
“She stood by me… She never let me go,” Northup told reporter Erika Tarantal. “With Asperger's syndrome and mental health issues, she's never given up on me.”
Northup, 31, struggled to find and stay at jobs until she joined Work Without Limits as an intern four years ago. “I didn't have very good hopes of enjoying a job,” she said. "I worked at McDonald's and that didn't go very well."
Petkauskos, who has spent 30 years in the field of disability employment, saw Northup’s potential. She hired Northup part-time, then full-time, and last year promoted her to project assistant II. She handles a wide variety of duties that require attention to detail, solid listening skills, a bright and agile mind and a willingness to juggle multiple projects.
“I call her an illumination of her former self because she really has blossomed,” Petkauskos said. “She’s just a pleasure to have as part of the team, but also produces very high-quality work.”
Northup nominated Petkauskos to be inducted into the national Susan M. Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame. The nomination was accepted.
"When I saw it, I thought it must have been a mistake quite honestly," Petkauskos said. "I could not imagine, you know, a more meaningful way for it to come about than for it to come from Megan, we've had a very special relationship and it’s been a great journey and a learning experience for both of us."
Work Without Limits, a program of Commonwealth Medicine, is a statewide network of employers and partners established in 2008 to increase employment among individuals with disabilities. The program hosts career fairs and conferences, and manages a fully accessible job board, Jobs Without Limits. The Northeast Human Resources Association in February named Work Without Limits the 2016 Frank X. McCarthy Organizational Diversity Champion.