Desirae Garcia is I-REACH2’s Direct Support Professional (DSP) of the year nominee for the state of Wyoming.

“DSPs are the artists of social change,” Omira Anayou.

Last week was Direct Support Professional Recognition Week, and Garcia was honored at a banquet for her efforts helping individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“Desi is the ultimate team player, a DSP 3, and has worked EVERY site and EVERY program in our organization. Your work in fulfilling the Mission of I-REACH never goes unnoticed or underappreciated. We simply wouldn’t be as strong without her!” said Tina Conley, the Executive Director.

Garcia moved to Casper when she was young and has always loved it. She especially loves the size of the community and said, “I moved away for a little bit and came right back. This is my home now. I have four kids–three girls, one boy–and my husband and I each have so many siblings and a wonderful dad [here].”

“I think we have a nice, tight-knit and safe community. It’s definitely where I wanted my kids to grow up.”

Courtesy Sabrina Spears
Courtesy Sabrina Spears

She first started working with I-REACH2 in 2017 and has been with them off-and-on for a total of four years. When she first started she was working the day program doing community outings with participants like going to work-out, going to museums, painting classes, and things like that.

She said her cousin worked for I-REACH2 when she was younger and Garcia remembered going on various outings with her, and it made her want to follow in those footsteps.

Garcia’s days vary a lot, she said, “but for the most part it’s getting our people out in the community, whether that’s going to the grocery store, doing some shopping, going to workout, going to lunch, just trying to get people out in the community to get them to interact with other people so they’re not just sitting at home watching TV, but getting out and adding value to their lives.”

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She’s also a job coach for one of the participants who works at a local hardware store.

Garcia said I-REACH2 has been dialing back their support for the participant because he is doing so well.

Her role includes picking him up from home, bringing him to work and helping him set expectations for the day.

Courtesy Sabrina Spears
Courtesy Sabrina Spears

“He is his own person as everybody is and I let him go about his day on his own, but if he needs me he can call me and I will check on him, and if he needs assistance he also has his coworkers. But he does good work.”

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows and some days are harder than others, but for Garcia it’s about taking a step back and trying to put herself in others’ shoes when the going gets tough.

“Knowing that I’m making a difference in someone else’s life is enough to motivate me and get me out of that funk to get going.”

“They are people. It’s really inspiring to see them overcome the way that people view them, as seeing that disability and thinking that’s all they have to offer. Getting them out there and showing people that [I-REACH participants] can do anything.”

The work Garcia does has given her the chance to directly impact her community for the better.

They help build capacity and community with other non profits like Food for Thought, Meals on Wheels, and the library--Garcia and two participants volunteer at the library to maintain cleanliness of shelves, the books, audiobooks and tapes.

“It’s really rewarding work and they are really valued members of our community and make a difference.

Garcia said her role models are mostly “indigenous creators. Me and my family are Northern Arapaho from the Wind River reservation, so a big part of who I am is representing that culture and trying to shape the narrative around positive ideas of how we view reservations, and it can be bad, but I would really like to see improvement in that area.”

She said she shares that side of the culture with her children, too. Her son “has long beautiful hair,” even though he doesn’t like to wear it in braids, he is very proud of his indigenous hair.

When asked about the future Garcia said, “I really see myself staying at I-REACH for a long time. I am in school for social work. I would love to be a case manager one day, whether that’s for children in the foster care system or even with adults with disabilities. That work is important, and it goes unrecognized a lot of the time, but it is important.”

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