ONEONTA, ALA. – Wallace State-Oneonta student Caleb Thomas stays busy between juggling an early-morning shift at TLC Nursing Center in Oneonta and taking classes on campus.
His dedication hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Thomas was named the ARC of Alabama Employee of the Year during the spring semester for his work and dedication at TLC.
“I was surprised and overwhelmed when I won the award. I never thought I could get something like that. I wanted to make sure they had the right person,” said Thomas, 22, a Cleveland High graduate. “I just try to do my job like everyone else at work.”
As a dietary aide at TLC, Thomas clocks in every day at 4:30 a.m., and gets the residents’ beverages ready for breakfast, among other duties throughout the day. During the spring semester, Thomas clocked out from TLC at 1 p.m. and headed straight to the Wallace State-Oneonta campus, where he began taking general studies courses for the first time.
“I’m so glad Wallace State is here (in Oneonta). It makes it easy for me to come here once I get off work, and it’s on my way home,” Thomas said. “I love being able to go to college close to home, and I’m glad I’m a Wallace State student.”
Thomas, who has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), was honored at the ARC of Alabama banquet in Montgomery earlier this year for his Employee of the Year award. The Arc of Alabama, Inc., is a non-profit, volunteer-based membership organization whose primary role is to advocate for the rights and protections of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families.
During the Arc of Alabama awards ceremony, it was stated that Thomas is a self-advocate of the program and a role model for other self-advocates in the program.
“With my ADHD, I understand what my instructors are saying. It just takes me a little longer to process it than other students,” Thomas said.
Jennifer Perkins, the Daytime Coordinator at the Arc of Jefferson County, works with ARC employees in Blount County and helped Thomas find the job at TLC. Perkins also recommended Thomas for the award.
“I helped Caleb search for a new job, and he became more confident and encouraged when he started working at TLC. His supervisor says she wishes she had 10 of him. Caleb is never late to work, he’s never called out and he’s willing to pick up other shifts. He’s an awesome employee, very dedicated and most importantly a nice guy,” Perkins said. “He has stepped up to the plate, working early hours and going to college. I’m proud of him.”
Thomas earned his current job at TLC during his initial visit to the nursing home with Perkins.
“Before I walked out, I was asked if I could attend an orientation on the next day. That’s the fastest job I’ve ever got,” Thomas said.
As he continues his academic career, Thomas plans to pursue a career in criminal justice.
For more information about Wallace State-Oneonta, visit www.wallacestate.edu or contact 205.625.4020.
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