Jasmine Long has always been tenacious about overcoming challenges. From a young age, she had three goals: Get an education. Get a job. And get a vehicle.
But there’s another trait, one she traces back to adolescence, that spurred her on to the career she has today.
“I’ve always been very empathetic,” said Jasmine. “The kind of person who wants to help people overcome challenges.”
Born with Spina Bifida, Jasmine is no stranger to challenges.
“I’ve had help, and I wanted to be like the person who helped me,” she said.
Unfortunately, when it came time to find employment, Jasmine wasn’t always afforded the opportunity.
“I’d have been happy even working a Walmart job,” she said. “As long as I could get there. Or fast food, but my arm can only reach so far onto shelves or out an order window. And there’s no room at the ordering stations for my wheelchair.”
Though these obstacles barred Jasmine from certain types of employment, she had, by 22, gained significant job experience. For 2 ½ years, as part of a community college work-study program, she’d worked as a math tutor. But after graduating, even though she was obviously qualified, none of her job applications yielded an interview.
“When you graduate community college, you can’t do a work study job any longer,” she said. “So, one of the first jobs I applied for was an online tutor position.”
She thought she’d be a shoo-in for that, but all she got was a form letter stating that she didn’t get the job—with no disclosed reason. That was the start of a frustrating chapter for Jasmine.
“I applied mostly for online jobs,” she said.
At the time, Jasmine didn’t have a vehicle, and even if she had, it would then have to be formatted with hand controls. (Jasmine’s disability affects her legs, but not her arms and hands.) Then, to drive the vehicle, Jasmine would have to take specific classes. She and her mom weren’t in a position to make all of that happen.
“I also knew that, with public transportation, there are set times you have to go and leave,” said Jasmine. “Many employers won’t accommodate that.”
The fact that she was also in college full-time, having transferred to Sac State’s Psychology program, further complicated both transportation and scheduling issues.
“It was kind of like a series of hills,” she said. “When I’d get turned down again, I’d get discouraged for a few months. It would turn into depression. Eventually, I’d try again. Then another rejection would come, and so would the discouragement.”
In addition to physical barriers, Jasmine knew she was also up against bias. Even during her community college tutoring job, some students, on glancing at her wheelchair, hadn’t wanted to work with her.
By the fall of 2020, nearing completion of her bachelor’s degree, despite having two-plus years’ experience as a tutor, she was feeling especially defeated on the job front. Then, her DOR counselor mentioned PRIDE Industries.
“One day when I was in my counselor’s office, she told me to look into two companies,” said Jasmine. “One being PRIDE Industries.”
Upon doing some research, Jasmine found that PRIDE Industries and its mission to create employment for people with disabilities stood out. With that, she contacted the social enterprise’s I AM ABLE Helpline.
“The Intake Representative was helpful on the spot,” said Jasmine. “She began researching and sending me links while she was on the phone with me.”
Within two weeks, Jasmine was connected to Employment Specialist Caryl Balko, the two working diligently on honing Jasmine’s resume, searching for and applying to jobs, and performing mock interviews.
Still, responses to Jasmine’s applications were slim.
“That’s when my employment specialist mentioned an internship,” said Jasmine.
In July of 2021, she began a 250-hour paid internship as an assistant to the I AM ABLE Helpline’s manager. The internship spanned six months, completing that December—just five months before Jasmine was to graduate with her bachelor’s degree in psychology.
After graduation, Jasmine stayed in touch with her employment specialist. Then, in the fall of 2022, her tenacity paid off.
A position came up that matched perfectly—not only with her degree but also with her long-held passion to help people overcome challenges. In January 2023, she became an employment specialist for the Ticket to Work program at PRIDE Industries.
“It really is a good fit,” she said. “It lets me use the skills I learned in school, as a tutor, and as an intern with the Helpline.”
Employment Specialist Caryl Balko concurs:
“Since joining our team, Jasmine will join in to help with anything,” said Caryl. “If the receptionist is out sick, she’ll help at the reception desk. When I was having computer issues, she helped me with that. She wants to be involved in as many aspects of PRIDE Industries as she can.”
Jasmine has excelled at her job, and it’s no wonder why. In the role, her superpower of empathy has found full expression. So have other traits she proudly features on her Microsoft Teams background: arranger and maximizer, skilled in adaptability and individualization. The fact that she’s also equipped with a psychology degree is more than icing on the cake. In fact, Jasmine hopes to return to college to obtain her MSW degree, allowing her to continue working to help people overcome barriers.
In the meantime, she’s accomplished two of her goals and is halfway to completing the third. Having purchased a van in 2022, Jasmine has only to equip it with hand controls and take the driving course for all three goals to be met.
Jasmine’s employment journey truly has come full circle.
When asked about her favorite part of her job, she’s quick to answer, “Helping people like me.”