The International Falls Occupational Development Center, or ODC, celebrates the accomplishments and contributions of the many direct support professionals working within the organization all throughout the year and highlight them during Direct Support Professional, DSP, Recognition Week, Sept. 8-14.

ODC is a nonprofit organization specializing in employment skills development and support for individuals with disabilities and other barriers to employment, working with community businesses to provide options for inclusive and sustainable employment that result in greater independence, according to a news release.

The International Falls division is located at 1600 20th Ave. W., and partners with local businesses and organizations to create employment options for people with barriers to employment.

Direct support professionals at ODC go by many titles, such as job coach, program specialist, instructor, or employment specialist. They work directly with individuals to mentor and develop their true vocational strengths and potential. This is dependent on close partnerships with businesses and other community providers to create employment options for clients to experience work in a highly integrated setting.

What qualities make a great DSP?

“If you have patience and you can be respectful to the people we serve, and to be kind and understanding towards them you should have no problem becoming a direct support professional,” said Cortney Christie, job coach at the Falls division. “You need to be able to take the good with the not so pleasant and still remain in control without getting stressed out or upset. One of my favorite moments was when one of our individuals got to have her first job out in the community. She was so proud of herself. It made me feel like I had such a great rewarding job, and I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my working career, and that’s to work with people who have disabilities.”

“Anybody can be a direct support professional. This job is about compassion and passion. It’s about caring for individuals. It’s about wanting to see others become successful,” said Beth Green, ODC employment specialist. “The best part of my job is when I meet a new person and I get to find him or her a job and they become successful in community employment for the first time ever.”

ODC employs over 75 DSPs to serve 800 individuals across 11 communities in northern Minnesota.

“We wouldn’t be able to do what we do as an organization if it wasn’t for some of the hardest working DSPs I have ever met,” said Tori Peterson, vice president of programs at ODC. “Thank you for spending time supporting the dreams, visions, goals, and ambitions of the people we serve.”

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