Alundis Brice, Area Director for Employment, MENTOR Oregon
"I have had the pleasure of experiencing many great opportunities in my life, from athletics to serving people with disabilities. The positives of this work are unlimited."
What is your background?
I have years of experience in football both as a player and coach. After graduating from The University of Mississippi, I was drafted to the Dallas Cowboys where I earned a Super Bowl title as a defensive back. While there I was injured and went onto play for the Philadelphia Eagles and in the Canadian Football League. During the injury recovery, I realized I wanted to coach and became a graduate assistant coach at University of Alabama-Birmingham and went on to coach at The University of Mississippi, University of Idaho and Portland State University. My family and I loved Portland and wanted to stay here to use my skills to help train high school athletes.
How did you start in the field of developmental disabilities services?
I moved to Portland to coach college football at Portland State University. Once my contract with the college was completed, I had a family here and didn’t want to leave my son by going to join another coaching staff. I had my degree in social work, so I was looking for opportunities. During my job search I found a position listed for a Job Coach. I had no clue what that was or the population they served but it seemed to be in line with my expectations for a new career. During the interview for the job coach position, I was asked if I knew what a Job Developer was. I got the job and that was my introduction to this new world of helping individuals with barriers to employment.
How did you grow in your job?
That first year on the job, I was awarded Most Valuable Employee for the Region. I would have to give all the credit to my manager at the time for seeing something in me as a Job Developer and giving me my first look into this new world of services.
After a few years as a Job Developer, another company asked me to become a Program Director of Employment for the Washington Region (Kelso, Wash. to Vancouver, Wash.) to lead the employment program. I accepted and within four months was promoted to Regional Director of Employment for the area of Seattle to Portland.
Later I returned to my original program in a new role as the Area Director to oversee the Employment Program statewide, which is my current role.
What are some of the positive aspects of your job?
That first opportunity to be a representative of people with I/DD in the community and then to see the pride in a person’s face on that first day of work is just priceless. I remember the first time I helped a potential business partner in the community see individuals with I/DD in a totally different perspective because they never truly understood how this population could be a real asset to their team in the workplace. The positives are unlimited. I have had the pleasure of experiencing many great opportunities in my life from athletics to serving people with disabilities.
What are the challenges of your job?
In my experience the system can be the biggest challenge in my job so far. In the world of employment, we cater our plans to fit the individuals and their goals – we keep everything person-centered and sometimes the system looks at the population as a whole entity. That can be a challenge because sometimes the individual doesn’t fit that system and it can be difficult to navigate.
What advice would you have for someone interested in jobs in the developmental disabilities field?
My advice to someone interested in working with this population is simple: ENJOY IT! Treat every moment as a learning opportunity for you and the people you serve.