Susan Menhard Reflects on Starkloff Career Academy’s 2019 Accomplishments

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Imagine of Susan Menhard and the Fall 2019 Capstone Course being presented with a check.

As 2019 draws to a close, SDI also celebrates the conclusion of another successful year for the Starkloff Career Academy (SCA).

A total of 20 candidates graduated from the Starkloff Career Academy Capstone Course in the spring and fall sessions of 2019, and a succession of special events filled the calendar. Thanks to support from Boeing, CannonDesign, Olin Corporation and Royal Banks of Missouri, the Spring Resume Cleanup attracted a record turnout of job seekers. Close to 30 candidates attended our Fall Jobs Forum as well, soaking up the valuable insights of hiring experts from Centene, Panera, St. Louis University, Cigna and Boeing.

In collaboration with the Center of Creative Arts (COCA), SDI hosted Networking Boot Camp in July, a unique opportunity for job seekers to learn how to use storytelling and improvisation to market themselves more effectively. Candidates were then able to put their new skills to the test with recruiters and HR professionals at our Accessible Networking Happy Hour.

Susan Menhard, Director of the Starkloff Career Academy, is amazed by the ongoing commitment shown by job candidates and business partners. She expresses her sincere gratitude for the extent to which SCA participants have embraced the program and helped shape its future.

“You are the ones that bit the bullet and joined us. You are the ones that did the work and pushed yourself through the fear and worry of videotaped interviews, of the seemingly unending practice of elevator chats, STAR stories and networking in front of the class. You confidently managed critiques from peers and professionals. And, you recognized and took advantage of the incredible tools and opportunities provided,” Susan proudly remarks. “These efforts not only advance your career status but also influence the development and techniques of our program. We have always relied on graduates’ opinions, thoughts, creativity, and most importantly, action to help us, and so far, you have done an awesome job.”

Despite the program’s considerable momentum, SCA staff members are constantly evaluating and seeking opportunities for improvement. One area where Susan sees room for growth is in alumni involvement. She believes there are tremendous, mutual benefits to fostering ongoing relationships with past SCA participants.

“Being an active alum looks good on your resume. It can offer leadership experience, chances to support other current job seekers – an environment that can enhance social skills and participation in fun events with others who understand disability,” Susan explains. “Starkloff Disability Institute will benefit from extra voices joining us in our mission of [dedication] ‘to helping people with disabilities participate fully and equally in all aspects of society.’”

The path to employment for people with disabilities is littered with obstacles: some imposed by society, others self-inflicted through our own thought processes, but all ultimately surmountable through hard work and dedication. Susan offers encouragement to those who are still in pursuit of their career goals.

“Job searching can be a slow and an extremely stressful process. We all have experienced multiple setbacks and failures,” Susan acknowledges. “Often, we give up, stop trying and believe that because we were unsuccessful in the past, we will always be unsuccessful. We continue to see a barrier in our heads even when no real barrier exists between where we are and where we want to go.”

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