Horizons offers counselors scholarships


— Facing challenges in recruiting and retaining staff at Horizons, the board of directors has come up with a new way to hold onto some of its much-needed counselors.
"Despite our low starting salary of $8 per hour, we have been able to recruit intelligent, caring, talented and committed counselors," Director Susan Mizen said. "Unfortunately, they leave us to move away, make more money, or return to school. It is gratifying to know that many of those who leave return to school are seeking degrees in special education, occupational or speech therapy or social work. That's not much consolation, however, to our clients."
To reduce turnover, a package of benefits has been developed, in an effort to offer scholarships to people who are willing to work toward their educational goal while remaining in Horizons' employ.
"If we can keep our employees for even an extra year, we will all benefit," Mizen said.
This year's scholarship recipients, who each received more than $400 to put toward educational expenses, are Barb Poirier and Jim Dougherty.
Mizen said she is hoping that after this first year, the board will be able to provide more money to the scholarship fund. But Poirier and Dougherty are pleased with the amount they've received.
"Every little bit up here helps," Dougherty said, who is putting his money towards a broker's license which he is earning through correspondence.
"I really like working for Horizons," he said. "I love to work with my clients, who might be slightly developmentally disabled, but who have a lot of potential. It's real exciting to work with them. There's just a lot of possibilities."
He is struggling to make ends meet in a resort town, and is working on his broker's license to continue the real estate investing he's been doing, he said.
"In one way or another, I'm going to stay. I like helping people."
Dougherty is also taking advantage of his skill, working one-on-one in his new personal training shop, Fit For Life, which he uses to help some of his Horizons clients as well.
"The money helps a lot," Poirier said, who is commuting from Steamboat to Boulder earning a degree in Oriental Medicine. "I use it for gas, car maintenance. I have so many expenses."
Poirier has been a counselor at Horizons for five years, and she said she loves the job.
"I'm really busy all the time, but it's great work, and Horizons is wonderful for helping me to work full time while I earn a degree."
Sally Claassen, former president of the Horizons board of directors, and Chris Collins, former executive director, met to select a recipient for the first year.
The two determined that both Poirier and Dougherty are committed to Horizons and intend to continue work while pursuing their educational goals.
"They strive each day to help Horizons reach its goals," Mizen said. "We are happy to help them meet theirs."

To reach Bonnie Nadzam call 871-4204 or e-mail bnadzam@amigo.net


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