Though Duchenne muscular dystrophy has made life a constant battle for 22-year-old Pete Petro, he has never once allowed it to tamp down his dreams or ambitions.
Rather, thanks to assistance from VR and SAIL, his visions of success have only grown more substantial.
“Without ADRS, I don’t know if I would have been able to complete college,” Pete said.
Pete didn’t just complete college, he excelled at it, graduating from Samford University’s Brock School of Business in May at the top of his class. In the fall, he plans to return to Samford to work on his master’s degree and prepare for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Exam.
SAIL Senior Rehabilitation Counselor Carla Harper, who has been monitoring Pete’s success in college for the past two years, said she expects to see Pete as an accountant at a top-notch agency or firm in the near future.
“Pete is an overachiever,” she said. “I have every faith and I believe he will succeed in whatever he does.”
In the months leading up to his graduation, Pete had an excellent opportunity to put all of those accounting classes to use when he was hired as an intern at the Alabama Family Trust (AFT), a Vestavia Hills-based organization that provides special needs trusts to individuals with disabilities and the elderly.
AFT Chief Financial Officer Doug Marshall said that even though his organization serves people with disabilities, AFT had never hired an employee with a disability, and so they wanted to ensure they could properly accommodate the young man.
“At Alabama Family Trust, all we do is serve those with special needs, but this was the first time we had an employee with special needs. We were a little apprehensive at first, questioning ‘How is all of this going to work?’ ” Marshall said. “Clearly our first concern – and really our only concern – was the desk. We knew our desks were not going to work for him, and we wanted him to have everything he could to do well here. Pete assured us from the beginning that ADRS would be all over it.”
ADRS Rehabilitation Technologist Bynum Duren was consulted to provide accommodations for Pete, including the construction of an adjustable-height desk of his own design.
With the desk, Pete was able to prepare and file more than 800 tax returns for persons served by Alabama Family Trust.
“This work opportunity definitely made me feel good about myself in that I was able to work for an organization that helps people with disabilities and the elderly,” said Pete, “and it’s definitely something that I need to continue doing.”
Marshall said that working with ADRS opened his eyes to the many valuable services the department provides to individuals with disabilities.
“We greatly value our relationship with ADRS. There are so many programs that ADRS has to serve the residents of Alabama with disabilities and their families,” Marshall said. “This experience added an entirely new dimension to our partnership with ADRS. Having Pete here was really special. Here we are, serving those with special needs, and – for the first time – a valuable part of our team is also someone with special needs.”
Pete said it is reassuring to know that ADRS is in his corner.
“It just makes me feel really good that ADRS is there looking out for me and helping me live the life that I want to live. As long as I put in the hard work and effort, I know that I will achieve what I want to achieve in life.”
This story is part of an occasional series – entitled Success17 – highlighting the accomplishments of ADRS consumers. It and subsequent stories in the series will appear in the 2017 ADRS Annual Report.