The Autism Program of Illinois and the TAP Center at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale would like to extend our gratitude to Kyle Dannells and Matt Hughes at the Walgreens located at 206 S Wall St in Carbondale, IL. Kyle, assistant store manager and Matt, store manager hired 26-year-old Damen Dukes, a client at the SIU TAP Center who has high-functioning autism.
“I was shocked and honored” said Damen who had never been hired so quickly. Damen works part-time at Walgreens as a customer service associate and he says “It’s pretty good.” Prior to Walgreens Damen worked at Camp Little Giant in Makanda, IL; this is his first time working retail.
Damen was successful at obtaining a position at Walgreens through the help of the dynamic team of professionals and graduate students at the SIU TAP Center. Damen receives a number of services at the TAP Center including social skills group, case management, academic assistance and individual counseling. Sherell Sparks, Family Service Coordinator and Certified Rehabilitation Counselor for the center and Dominique Davis-Warner, graduate student, dedicated themselves to preparing Damen for the interview.
After identifying Damen’s need for more income, Sherell casually walked into the Walgreens on South Wall Street and asked manager, Matt if he would support hiring a person with autism. “I was surprised at how quickly he said yes” said Sherell who assisted Damen throughout the hiring process. Dominique was active in conducting a mock interview with Damen and assisted him with his application.
“We thought it would be a good fit” said assistant store manager Kyle who recognizes Damen as an employee who works hard throughout his shift. Although Damen is the first person with special needs they have hired at their store, Kyle mentioned it is something they plan on doing more frequently.
The Walgreens Company recently collaborated with TAP Partner Have Dreams launching a training center for employees with autism in Evanston, IL. The training center is a simulated Walgreens store which prepares students for work at modern Walgreens chains.
Damen, however shadowed Kyle the first day and “picked up stocking in no time flat” said Kyle. Damen has taken his own initiative. He will be receiving his graduate certificate in communications in May.
Bonita Holmes- Network Outreach Coordinator for The Autism Program of Illinois (TAP)