“Be kind and don’t sweat the small stuff” are the words of wisdom from Suzanne Byers as she reflects back on her decade at Transylvania Vocational Services (TVS). Her 10 years of dedicated service are decorated with glittering smiles, paint, and colored construction paper, as she has assisted with the TVS programs growth into the services we have today.
In 2010, Suzanne Byers was hired as a Direct Support Professional (DSP) to help participants build boxes on the production floor. As the programs have grown and evolved to meet North Carolina standards, so has Suzanne. “When production would be slow, program participants moved into the training room to spend some time on education,” she said. Some of the topics included counting money and eating healthy. They also worked on writing emails to “E-buddies” online.
It was past CEO and Suzanne’s Aunt-in-Law, Nancy Stricker, that suggested that she apply as a DSP in 2010. “It is impossible to believe that 10 years have flown by since she was hired,” said Nancy. “I am so proud of Suzanne. I know she is following her heart and that she will continue the important work she continues to excel in.”
In 2012, Suzanne was promoted to the Activities Coordinator for INTERACT and Life Skills; while also assisting with respite every weekend for three years. She was promoted again in 2017 to her current position as Life Sills supervisor.
Prior to TVS, Suzanne had various jobs, including working at the Boys and Girls Club and as an interim K-12 teacher in Transylvania County. Suzanne attended Brevard College and graduated in 2004 with a double major in Art and English. The following year she achieved her certification in K-12 Education, however Transylvania County Schools did not have any open job positions.
“Her practice of active listening allows her to align regulations and human need together,” Nancy said. “Suzanne’s personal creativity assures that individual participants can do the things they want to do, while experiencing and exploring their interests.”
Suzanne is described by her peers as kind, compassionate, quiet, and an advocate for individuals with disabilities.
“I really appreciate all the good times we have together, Suzanne really builds comradery amongst the team,” said Jonathan Coggins, Life Skills DSP. “She cracks jokes with us and makes us all laugh.”
Outside work, Suzanne can be found spending time with her husband, Sheridan, and their two children; Ellis and Cullen. She loves hiking and running, being in nature, and reading.
“She is a veracious reader,” Nancy said with a laugh. “Therefore, the joke in our family is that you NEVER want to play Trivial Pursuit with her, unless you don’t mind humiliation.”
Suzanne is a member of the TVS book club and has helped organize past TVS events such as group participation in the Brevard Rotary Club 5K runs.
“She is a team player and is always willing to organize larger TVS events,” Program Director Carla Hill said. “She uses art as a medium and our participants respond positively and enjoy this type of self-expression.”
Carla has been Suzanne’s supervisor for the past seven years. “I remember Suzanne helping participants make individual videos that demonstrated a specific area that they were passionate about,” Carla recalls. The project allowed the participants to develop better communication skills, organizational skills, and presentation skills, while also receiving praise from their peers and others in the room.
Suzanne works to help individuals express themselves so that their individuals’ voices are heard.
“From this career, I have become more aware of the different abilities and of the hidden disabilities,” Suzanne said. “People are people, there are no walls built around them like society portrays and you really start to see that when you work with them every day.”
Thinking back on her career at TVS, Suzanne says, “I have more compassion for the person and care less about what people around me think. I am looking forward to continue growing our programs in whatever fluid direction they take.”
Written by Jenifer Welch