Contributing more than just a job



    Navigating through the Cougareat with her trash can on wheels, Sandy Wand may look like just another friendly student employee, but Wand has been traversing the Wilkinson Center for longer than most students at Brigham Young University.

    For a total of 7 years, 35-year-old Wand has collected trash and distributed newspapers, Monday through Friday, in an effort to help keep the Cougareat seating area in perfect operation.

    Wand said she enjoys working at BYU so much that she arrives on campus for work 45 minutes early every morning.

    ?I just work until three and I?m supposed to be here at eight, but I usually get here at 7:15,? Wand said.

    Wand is one of several handicapped employees hired by BYU through a nonprofit organization, Valley Personnel Services. Between United Way, a UTA bus or Valley Personnel Service transportation, each employee finds their way to work for the 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. shifts.

    Although working in the Cougareat is a full-time job for these employees, Wand said she enjoys her responsibilities amongst the BYU students.

    ?I do the trash,? Wand said, with a smile. ?I start doing the newspapers in the morning and then in the afternoon, before I go to lunch, I do the trash.?

    Each employee is selected for specific jobs that matches their abilities and what they are willing to do.

    Tiffany Adams, a job coach for Valley Personnel Services, said Wand?s social personality merited a job that kept her out of the back and out amongst the BYU students.

    ?She loves to talk, loves people,? Adams said. ?She gets along with everybody and is very helpful. She works when she?s not socializing, but she is a really good worker.?

    Even her co-workers agree that Wand is out-going, including Linda Kay, who works alongside Wand in their striped shirts every morning.

    Kay said Wand has been her best friend for a long time. She said she is a nice and sweet person.

    Kay doesn?t work as often as Wand, but still sees the love that Wand has for her job at BYU.

    She said Wand likes helping and always does it with a smile. ?If they need something or somebody drops something in the garbage can, she is always there to take everything out. She is a very nice person.?

    Although Wand?s job at BYU has been a stable one, other aspects of her life have not been as concrete.

    Ever since childhood, Wand moved between different foster and group homes to find a proper environment for her situation. Wand recently moved from an apartment, with a single woman, to Lindon where she now lives with the Paonessa family.

    ?Their kids are the funnest,? Wand said when asked why she enjoyed living with a family. ?And I?m a big sister, and they love me to death.?

    Wand?s friends said they are glad that she has found a place to call home and where she has a family to return to each night.

    ?She calls me her mom and her foster dad, dad, and she tells everyone she has a little brother and sisters,? said Bobbie Paonessa, her foster mom.

    Wand spends as much time as possible with the Paonessa family, especially the four children, between her busy schedule of work and outside activities.

    ?My kids love her a lot,? Paonessa said. ?Sandy is their big sister. She is really outgoing and loving so she has taken them all under her care. They even start to miss her when she is gone for a few days.?

    Paonessa met Wand through Recreation and Habilitation Services (RAH), an organization designed to provide people with handicaps the opportunity to get out in the community and interact with others.

    ?It is really just a great way for them to have a chance to be normal and get to hang out with their friends,? Paonessa said.

    Wand joins some of her friends from work at RAH as well, every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday afternoon. Activities usually become the topic of conversation during their lunch break.

    ?Every Tuesday I go bowling,? Wand said. ?Yes, it?s fun. And every Thursday we do activities, but I don?t know what we are doing this week because it is getting ready for Christmas.?

    Wand brings these stories about the day?s events home as well, Paonessa said.

    ?She likes to see what the students are doing,? Paonessa said. ?She will tell me about the clothes she saw, or if she met somebody new. Because of her memory loss she can?t remember names, but she loves to tell me when she meets someone.?

    One of her friends, Ryan Vorwaller, whose name she does remember, said Wand always puts him in a good mood because of her optimism.

    ?I just enjoy being around Sandy and all of the others,? said Vorwaller, a freshman from Florida. ?I don?t see their handicaps; I just see their personality, just like everyone else has.?

    Adams, who has been interacting with employees like Wand for the past twelve years, agrees with Vorwaller.

    ?It is something you have to adjust to, but once you really get to know them, they really are special people,? said Adams. ?They?re fun and loving.?

    Similarly, Wand said she is lucky to be working in an environment like BYU because she enjoys being around people like Adam and Vorwaller.

    ?The people who work here with us, they are friendly,? Wand said. ?The BYU students are nice.?

    Not all people are as fortunate as Wand though, because jobs are limited.

    ?There is a waiting list for handicapped people,? Adams said. ?The waiting list is through the state. They have to wait for funding before they can come work with us.?

    Limited resources caused Valley Personnel Services to move Wand to a new work location for a few years, but she was glad to return to BYU.

    Contrary to most students, who have the goal to graduate and leave BYU, Wand said she hopes to remain here for several more years to come, happy with her current work, family and friend situation. So until another opportunity comes her way, Wand will be found pushing her trash can, carrying her newspapers, eating lunch with her friends, wearing her striped uniform and a smile.

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