My name is James Harley and I have two jobs – one as an advocacy support advisor for Hamilton County Developmental Disabilities Services and another as people greeter at Walmart.
I started my career at Goodwill Industries after high school and a brief stint at Cincinnati State. While at Goodwill, where I worked for five years in their work adjustment program, I learned valuable skills such as how to work with a team, how to be on time, and how to improve my social skills. It was also at Goodwill where I discovered my passion for advocacy as part of the Consumer Advisory Committee.
In 2010 I became an advocate for Hamilton County DD Services, which allows me to do great work throughout the community. Some issues we’ve tackled in the past five years include working with Metro to improve access to public transportation and working with Cincinnati City Council to make sure sidewalks and bus stops are clear of snow.
This spring, I also got a job at the Western Hills Walmart to have something to do during my days off from Hamilton County DD. At Walmart, I greet people as they come through the door and check receipts as they leave. I enjoy my job because I get a chance to meet friendly people – just the thought of making somebody’s day by greeting them with a smile makes me happy! Working at Walmart is also a way for me to prove to myself that I can be a dependable employee and maintain my job.
In addition to working 35 hours per week, I’m a student at the University of Cincinnati and pursuing my bachelor’s degree in political science. To me, politics and advocacy go hand-in-hand because advocacy is mostly about voicing your concerns and changing policy on issues.
I believe we can achieve anything if we really want to, regardless of ability. I have cerebral palsy but I don’t let my disability define who I am as a person. Everything I do in life has a purpose – Walmart helps me improve my social interaction, Hamilton County DD Services prepares me for my career after college, and attending UC is helps me toward my long-term goal of being a member of the United States Congress.
That’s a high-level ambition, but I believe anything is possible if we believe in ourselves and work hard toward that goal.
James’ story is part of a first-person series about community employment.