Jaima Baskin is an artistic, 20-year-old Pellissippi State student from Oak Ridge who is benefitting from a $5.2 million, five-year U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy grant awarded to the College in October of 2015. The grant is known as Universal Pathways to Employment (UPEP) and it helps students with disability to graduate and get a job doing what they studied in college.
“I have always been into art,” Jaima said. “I have a slight disability, so that makes it very hard to comprehend things.”
Jaima was born at Fort Benning, Georgia, to an Army family. “The men on my dad’s side of the family were in the military, while the women were usually nurses.” She has traced her dad’s family back to her great, great, great
Grandfather, who was a World War I Army Air Corps officer, and a great, great, great grandmother, who was a self-taught nurse.
Jaime moved to Oak Ridge, where her mother’s family is from, when she was “four or five-years-old.”
”It was rough,” she said, “We were lower middle class and we struggled.” At one point, Jaima’s mother held down three jobs at once. “She was a nurse at Briarcliff, worked in a convenience store, and provided in-home heath care to the sick.”
Jaima attended Glenwood Elementary School, Jefferson Middle School, and Oak Ridge High School. Sadly, her mother died when she was a high school junior in 2012. Now, she lives with her grandmother and works part-time at Big Ed’s Pizza in Oak Ridge.
Her aunt, Sayona Shoemaker-Groover, who works in the cafeteria on the Pellissippi State Hardin Valley Campus, is the rock in Jaima’s life. “My aunt helps out so much. It almost feels like she lives with us.”
Another important person in Jaima’s life she calls “Aunt Ann.” Aunt Ann is Ann Satkowiak, the Director of Disability Services at Pellissippi State. Satkowiak was the person who wrote, applied for, and won the UPEP grant for the College.
In discussing what UPEP has done for her, Jaima points to her Career Coach Taylor Ragetti. “We have career coaches who help us. They look for jobs in the local area and help us with resumes and cover letters.”
Jaima said that another benefit of UPEP is being assigned an Academic Coach. Her Academic Coach is Allison McKittrick. “She is just really friendly and it makes her easier to talk to. She’s in college too, working on a Master’s degree at the University of Tennessee. She breaks my lessons down into small chunks and helps me learn it bit by bit.”
“I’ve met a lot of great people in the program. Even though we all have disabilities, we all understand how it is to struggle with them (disabilities),” she said.
Jaima said another important aspect to UPEP is providing participants with the material resources they need to succeed. “Some students don’t have internet, so PSCC provides them with a ‘Hot Spot,’ while UPEP provides assistive technology like laptops and live scribe pens, so they can get their work done at home and won’t fall behind.”
As far as Jaima is concerned one of the biggest benefits of UPEP is that it has given her confidence. “They try to make you go out and do things, but you still can choose not to, if you don’t want to do it.”
“UPEP has helped me a lot,” Jaima said. “I don’t know where I’d be without it. I don’t think I would be making the grades I am without the extra help.”