Straight from the Source - Using New Opportunities to Learn About Ones' Interests
Posted on 12/17/18 in Life Skills by Milestones
Jacob Winkelman is your average fun-loving, sports-obsessed 21-year-old. When he is not attending school at the Monarch Center for Autism or interning here at Milestones, you may find him playing video games, following his favorite local sports team, the Cleveland Indians, or planning for his next cosplay event, a hobby that has brought him a new sense of community and belonging.
"My sister and I went to our first convention together and I met amazing people. I felt like 'this is something I can do,'" Jacob says. "It's amazing to know I can have autism and still feel at home."
That first experience has now sparked a colorful and creative hobby for Jacob where he enjoys trying new costumes and meeting new people in the industry. One of Jacob's biggest highlights so far since starting cosplay has been meeting Steve Blum of Wolverine and Cowboy Bebop fame, who was excited to talk to Jacob when he mentioned that he had autism.
"To hear Steve Blum say that autism is awesome... that makes you feel good."
Next year, Jacob will be graduating. In preparation for this new chapter, Monarch and Milestones partnered to create an internship at Milestones to support him in pursuing goals such as mastering Excel, learning more about Photoshop and developing other office skills.
"I'm not a pro at Excel so it has been great to get more Excel work and to learn from it," Jacob says. "It has been helpful for me."
In the past, Jacob has gained experience with multiple organizations, trying new things and working in various types of environments.
"I was at ESPN Cleveland for the Cavs title win and it was so busy. I also worked at the Rubber Ducks (the Double A Affiliate of the Cleveland Indians) team store and at the Cleveland Jewish News. I did a lot of organizing and copying there."
When asked what advice he would give to other individuals with autism looking for opportunities to build upon their skills for the future, Jacob said to think about what you're interested in and to just go for it.
"For me personally, I think if you want to try something new, you just have to go try it for yourself," Jacob says. "It's just a matter of what you want to do. I have always told people that I am a guy who likes sports and computers - so I am going to combine those as much as possible. Focusing on your interests is important but also looking for more interests can expand your possibilities for jobs. Like when I worked with the Ducks, I never thought I would be able to work in stores, but then I found that I enjoyed it and now that is something else I can do."
With a love for sports and computers, Jacob will tell you his current "ideal" job is to work the scoreboard for the Cleveland Indians. With this dream in mind, his plan is to continue taking advantage of the opportunities around him to learn and grow personally as well as professionally.
"I have already done a lot of things I didn't think I could do, so it will be interesting to see what I end up doing. I'm trying to set myself up for good things to come."
To learn more about Milestones' internship program, please contact Program Director Beth Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org.