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Helping Tovino Get One Step Closer to Dream Job

The following article is one of a series on Ability Partners from MDI, a grantee partner of Johnson Scholarship Foundation, It is shared with permission.

During National Disability Employment Awareness Month, MDI is saluting people who’ve stepped ahead, above and beyond in the name of equitable opportunity and employment for people with disabilities.

Meet Dave, CEO, Arrowhead Medical

I’m an entrepreneur, and Arrowhead is a small business with just 11 employees—but it’s a complex company that competes against billion-dollar organizations. And we come out on top—even during the pandemic. Our advantage is that we have people who get it done, whatever the job is—and then our growth comes about naturally. We’re able to be honest with our customers, and put heart into creating an ethical path in doing business.

I’ve learned a lot running my own companies. I know now that with perseverance, you can get through anything. And that the small stuff in a business is really critical to success. You can’t ever overlook anything that could be done better. I’ve learned to have empathy for both my employees and my customers. When a leader doesn’t have empathy, that’s a bad path for your business. And also how important it is to hire people with heart, who want to learn and get it done—that’s critical for growth.

I was there when my goddaughter was born. I’ve watched her mature over her life, dealing with life with a disability, and now she’s 34, works independently, lives in assisted living, joined the Y. It’s made me look at people very differently than most, because I can see who they are as an individual. I always look for the heart in them.

Tovino, center, with Dave at right, and a fellow coworker at Arrowhead Medical

So because of my relationships with my goddaughter and friends with kids with disabilities, I realized I could use my business to do some good and hire people who were truly seeking an opportunity to work—and for reasons bigger than a paycheck. If you can become more open in how you can help individuals who just need a smidge more patience or support, your business can benefit greatly, and in ways you wouldn’t expect.

Hiring people with disabilities requires thinking ahead a bit. You look at an individual and see where their talents are. You sort out how to help them develop the skillsets that will fit their duties. And after that, they can develop into roles that lead to more responsibility, setting goals for when they’re looking for more. It benefits everyone at my business, helping all of us feel like we’re growing in everything we do—not just building the bottom line but doing something more.


When I met Tovino, I thought, he’s got a big man’s body, and a big heart that goes with it. When you think about your own career and your path from a first job, we all had a little help from a wonderful manager. And that’s what I wanted for Tovino: someone who works together with him, helps him hone in on his duties and get better at those—and I think it’s worked out really well.

His ability to grow and develop has certainly been seen in his time at Arrowhead. Now when I put Tovino on a project, it’s not just that I want him to be successful as an employee. I want him to be a successful man, and have the abilities he develops help him move forward with his life.

Meet Tovino, Operations 1, Arrowhead Medical

Tovino, working at Arrowhead Medical

My choices have lead me to where I am today. I learned about a company called MDI through school. I heard they employed people with disabilities. So, I applied for a job at MDI – and got hired! I gained experience folding boxes and keeping things organized. After a while I was ready for a new challenge. MDI helped me get a job at Arrowhead Medical. When I started working at Arrowhead, I was excited to start something new, but I was worried people would look down on me, or not be good enough for the job. But Arrowhead’s the best.

I [at Arrowhead] put stuff together, I deliver to customers, and I get to meet new people. I’m learning a lot about tools, which is exciting because down the road, I want to go to college and be a mechanic—that’s my goal. I don’t have a favorite thing about working there or a favorite person—everything is my favorite. Thanks to these opportunities, I now have hope and the support to make my dreams happen.

Read the entire series on Ability Partners at this link.

MDI is a non-profit social enterprise manufacturer that provides inclusive employment to individuals with diverse abilities.

A Deaf Student Follows the Call of the Ocean

Nicholas Hohrman is a junior from Minnesota majoring in Biology at Gallaudet University, a core grantee partner of Johnson Scholarship Foundation. He did an in-person internship at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC) in Juno Beach, Florida, where he worked with sea turtles. He hopes to pursue a master’s degree in Oceanography. Because of the pandemic, he decided to seize the opportunity to intern and take online courses from Gallaudet simultaneously for six months. He shared this report about his experience.

 I did my internship at Loggerhead Marinelife Center for the past seven months during the pandemic while doing my online courses. I was able to do this because the Johnson Scholarship Foundation’s support meant I could move to Juno Beach, Florida. These past seven months have been a great experience for me and I have learned a lot about sea turtles.

Also not only the sea turtles but I was able to learn what research was like. My supervisor was Deaf too, and working with her was a great experience because I never had that opportunity before. Working with the team was great because they were motivated to learn sign language while working with me and my supervisor.

While working at LMC I was able to learn and help out with data entering on the beach. We had to be on the beach very early in the morning; therefore, I had to be there at 5:45 a.m. to get everything ready before we could go on the beach. I would get the GPS, the turtle nest stakes, saddle bags, and make sure the ATVs had gas.

When arriving at the beach we would write down the time and start looking for the crawls on the beach. Crawls are the marks that sea turtles make when they come on the beach to nest. Some will nest, but some are false crawls, meaning that they didn’t nest. We sometimes got over 200 crawls on the beach so we would be on the beach until late afternoon, and it was a great experience because when we felt super-hot and needed to cool down we would go and jump in the ocean to cool down. It was fun to do that! Sometimes there would be down-pouring rain, therefore we had to keep going to make sure we were not missing any of the crawls.

After I had been working a few months at LMC on the beach, hatchlings were getting ready to hatch and head into the ocean. Then we would check for any tracks of hatchlings from the nest. How did we know where the nests were? We had to mark some of the nests. We do not mark every nest because if we did it would cover pretty much the entire beach, and people wouldn’t be able to sit. We have numbers that we follow that count down so that we would mark every 34th nest.

After 80 days when the hatchlings hatch, we would count how many eggs hatched or didn’t hatch. That is how they were able to get a percentage of how many hatched. Interesting fact is that if the sand is hot, that means that there will be more female sea turtles and if the sand is colder, then that means more male sea turtles. So that is why global and climate change is a big thing for the sea turtles and other mammals.

Also while I was there I was able to volunteer at the conservation center at LMC, which included working with sorting trash and entering data into their database. It was very interesting to learn how much trash washed up on the beach. We would find trash from different countries.

The past seven months was a great experience with LMC and working with my supervisor who is Deaf. I would totally recommend to the future students to take this opportunity with LMC and get the experience.

Nicholas Hohrman is a junior majoring in Biology at Gallaudet University.

A LEAP Ahead for Hearing-Impaired Students

One of the challenges teenagers who are deaf and hard of hearing frequently face is connecting and interacting with other teens with hearing loss. If not addressed, that challenge can lead to isolation and a lack of self-confidence. A new program of The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell) called LEAP (Leadership Experiences and Adventure Program), established with the support of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, helps high school students who use Listening and Spoken Language connect virtually with peers just like them. The program is led by adults who are deaf and are achieving their potential. LEAP helps teens become more self-aware while acquiring capacity in leadership, self-advocacy, technology, work and life skills. Students who participate in LEAP learn more about themselves and their personal strengths and are excited to see how they can use their strengths to develop and achieve their future goals.

AG Bell has hosted three LEAP sessions so far this year in May, July, and September. To date, 87 students registered for LEAP from 21 different states and 6 different countries. Each session offered 5 ½ hours of engaging and informative interaction led by Catharine McNally, AG Bell’s past president, as well as six additional facilitators who are graduates of the long-standing LOFT (Leadership Opportunities for Teens) program, which strengthens leadership potential in students with hearing loss. Participants worked with facilitators in small group sessions where they connected with each other on a more personal level, and more easily engaged in self-exploration and discussion.

Guest speaker Ceil Weatherman, a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, used the students’
“homework” of completing the Clifton Strengths Assessment to highlight the strengths of each student and the value that each brings to social, education and work environments. LEAP teens learned that people in their “strength zones” experience positive energy, are more likely to achieve their goals, are more confident, perform better at work, experience less stress and have more positive moments. Keeping their strengths in mind, the teens explored how their personal strengths can help them use technology more effectively, advocate more efficiently and plan for the future.

At the end of the two-day, virtual session, students were asked to share what they learned. Here is what a few of the students shared:

 “I learned when a person uses his Clifton Strengths, he is more successful at work and/or school.” (Anonymous)

 “One thing I plan to do differently now that I have done LEAP is advocate for myself more.” (Rachel, age 16)

 “[The Mentors] were amazing and showed us how we can be successful in the future.” (Anonymous)

 “I just wanted to thank AG Bell for choosing me for this LEAP program because it made me a better person and gave me a confidence to embrace my hearing loss.” (Leah, age 17)

“I learned that I am not alone in my hearing loss journey and that to get the best experiences I apply my values and strengths in everything I do in life.” (Anonymous)

“How to advocate for myself.” (Paul, age 17)

“I plan to use my hearing equipment in different and more creative ways.” (Anonymous)

“Use our strengths to discover our interests.” (Kiana, age 15)

“[I’m] inspired to pursue my future career by using my strengths.” (Nathan, age 15)

Through the generosity of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation and other supporters, LEAP is offered free of charge to high school students. Six sessions will be scheduled throughout 2022, offered every other month. AG Bell offers placement of up to 50 students per session with a goal of 350 total participants. For more information and to apply to attend LEAP, please visit or email us at

Julie Schulte is the Teen Programs Coordinator for the AG Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing