Samantha, Cam, and Nick: “My Disability Won’t Define Me”

Samantha pushes wheelbarrow full of feed inside horse barn.Samantha Johnston was one of three students working a summer job at Rummler Run Farm near Buxton, Maine. It’s not always easy to find summer work, and it can be even more difficult as a teenager with a disability.

“We go into schools to teach job readiness,” said Sarah Morton, youth peer mentoring/counselor at Alpha One in Portland, Maine. “The newest thing we’ve added is AgrAbility. What we’re finding is that businesses are afraid to hire kids with disabilities, so our goal is to help businesses learn about them by bringing them on-board to show how they do. Students work three days a week at the farm, and the fun thing is that they get paid.”

The program is a partnership between Maine AgrAbility, the University of Maine, and Alpha One, and is funded by the Maine Department of Labor Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.

“These kids are really motivated,” said farm owner Sally Farrell. “They like animals. They’re interested in agriculture, so it’s a good fit. As older farmers, we need to encourage youth. Especially youth with disabilities. Everybody can be successful on the farm.”

Student Cam agreed. “I am learning about myself, and a lot about these animals, and learning about how to communicate with my peers better,” he says. “Teamwork is awesome. Teamwork is everything in business.”

He adds, “I know my disability is not going to define who I am. Actually, it makes me work harder. Work should be fun. I love this job.”