"Super Secretary" Breaking Through Stereotypes for Workers with Disabilities

CENTER CITY (WPVI) -- A Center City company is touting the talents and work ethic of one of its newest employees and encouraging other companies to consider hiring people with disabilities.

Thomasina Justice is an office assistant at The Graham Company, a Philadelphia-based insurance brokerage and consulting firm.

But she says landing this job - after having brain surgery in 2015 - wasn't exactly easy.

"It was a tumor. A brain tumor... I was out of work for a whole year," said Justice.

Thomasina applied for the position with the help of Merakey - an organization that helps match people with disabilities with job opportunities.

"While recovering back from the brain tumor, that's where she came back to Merakey to gain that additional support as she regained her memory and gained those other skills back," said Theresia Kody, Director of Employment Services at Merakey.

At first, Thomasina was re-stocking coffee areas and cleaning conference rooms.

But her co-workers quickly realized she could do more.

"Her responsibilities have expanded since she first started, which is great," said Karen Boyle, Vice President of Human Resources at The Graham Company.

Now Thomasina has access to company email and does scanning and filing.

For the first time in her life Thomasina has her own desk, and on it she keeps pictures of her two sons - her biggest inspiration.

"I love my boys," she said.

In 2018, Thomasina was given the Self-Advocate of the Year Award by Pennsylvania Advocacy and Resources for Autism and Intellectual Disability.

Her co-workers say the office wouldn't be the same without her.

"She can look at you and know if you're having a bad day. She'll just say, 'Smile, it's going to be OK.' Her intuitive nature... she says hello to everyone. It's absolutely refreshing," explained Boyle.

Thomasina says the feeling is mutual.

"I get a lot of support. Everybody's so friendly and helpful," she said.

For more information on Merakey's Employee Works program, call 1-888-647-0020 or visit their website.
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