Starkloff Candidate Profile: Zach Disney 

Greatest Lessons Learned: Accept and Own His Disability 

“Everybody wanted 5 years’ experience or a master’s degree or a combination of both,” says Zach Disney, recalling his year-and-a-half long job search after graduating from Southeast  Missouri State University in 2009, with a Bachelor’s in Recreation Management. Zach chose this degree because he wants to “adapt recreational/sporting events so that disabled and able-body individuals can participate on the same ‘field,’” he explains. 

Physical barriers were another issue Zach had to face. Many entry-level recreation careers require CPR certification, something he couldn’t fully be certified in because he uses a wheelchair. Living in Union, he also had few options for transportation. 

“I kind of slumped into giving up on a career,” he recalls.  

Things didn’t turn around for Zach until January 2016 when he learned about our Career Academy. After coming across Starkloff Disability Institute online, he asked his vocational rehabilitation counselor what she thought. She encouraged him to reach out to us, so Zach arranged a meeting.  

Meeting the Career Academy staff for the first time left a strong impression. “Everybody wants to help people with disabilities be truly independent,” he recalls. “It felt like something more.”  

Unfortunately, Zach still lived in Union and couldn’t participate in the Capstone Course that year. “It wasn’t until I moved into 6 North,” a fully-accessible apartment complex in St. Louis, “that I could participate in the program.” Zach moved to St. Louis to have better access to job opportunities and public transit. Of working with Starkloff, Zach says, “You guys were the icing on the cake.” 

Zach participated in the Spring 2017 Capstone Course as well as Starkloff Career Academy’s Spring Clean-Up sponsored by Boeing. The Boeing training, which was the first corporate training of the course, had a huge impact. “When we met with the people from Boeing, it really kind of hit home that this was the right spot,” says Zach. “They loved my resume and my interview skills, and seeing how they really strive to hire people with disabilities that have the qualifications gave me confidence that there are people out there that can see beyond the six wheels underneath me to the person on top.” 

Finally accepting and owning his disability was the greatest lesson Zach learned from Starkloff. “It’s okay to find different paths,” he says. “We can’t all go down the same path. The able-bodied path has stairs, and I can’t use stairs, so I take advantage of my disability rather than trying to hide from it.” 

After graduating our course, Zach now works as a Recreation Assistant at the Brentwood Recreation Center, the same place he attended as a student of the Capstone Course. “After only two meetings, I had an interview!” Zach proclaims. 

Zach’s career in recreation has just begun. “I’m trying to get more work within the recreation department, always volunteering to work with the full-time staff,” he says. “I’m slowly trying to build connections and see what’s out there.” 

Zach attributes his success to the confidence and new perspective he gained in the Capstone Course. To those considering the course, he has this to say: 

“Give it a shot. Being disabled, we have to be bold and do anything and everything we can that will help further our independence. If nothing else, this course will show you a lot more opportunities than you will ever know on your own.”   

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