In honor of National Direct Support Professional (DSP) recognition week, Association House highlights Jovan Ocasio, one of our outstanding DSPs. Jovan was drawn to Association House when his summer job in 1994 with the mayor’s office of Workforce Development sent him to the Association House summer camp. When the camp ended, he decided to stay on as a volunteer for the Afterschool program.

What initially drew you to joining the Association House family?

I was drawn to the Association House When I was a teenager looking for a summer job with the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development in the summer of 1994.  They sent me to work for the Association House summer camp, which was the best thing they ever did, I loved it!  When the summer camp ended, I decided to stay on as a volunteer for the Afterschool program because I really enjoyed it! The following year they hired me as a permanent staff. 

What is your favorite part of your experience with the Association House?

My favorite part is having the opportunity to work with so many families over the years and hearing success stories from the participants I used to work with and how the Association House had a big impact on their life. 

Who or What influenced your desire to want to be a DSP?

Honestly, I never thought about becoming a DSP. I used to work with the Out of School Time Program here at the Association House until the program closed. Ellen Vazquez’s (Supervisor of the Life Skills Education Program) niece and nephews used to be participants in the Out of School Time Program because of that I got to know Ellen. When the program closed, I left the Association House for a few years. During that time, the LSE Program expanded, and more participants were coming in, so they needed another staff. That’s when Ellen contacted me and told me that there was a position open, and if I was interested, send in a resume and come in for an interview. I took a chance and was hired, and it was the best decision I made. I love being a DSP and the participants I work with. I guess you can say Ellen helped influenced me to be a DSP.

What has been your most fulfilling experience as a DSP?

Teaching Life skills to the participants such as personal hygiene, job skills, cooking, and money management to say a few. My favorite is coaching our Athletes for the Special Olympics.  I love to take the participants out to train and prepare for the competition, whether it be for Track and Field, Bowling, Softball, or Soccer. Teaching them sportsmanship, teamwork, the different skills it takes to play the sport, and that it’s not always about winning but that they do their best. The best part is when they take what you taught them to the competition, do their best, and win medals or trophies. The excitement and big smiles on their face is so rewarding.