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February 24, 2005

Contact: Melanie Mowry Etters
Vocational Rehabilitation Communications
or 850-528-7401

Vocational Rehabilitation Program Helps Woman Achieve Dream

ZEPHYRHILLS, FL — Today Charlene Donatello is a composition teacher at Pasco-Hernando Community College (PHCC). It took her 18 years to overcome obstacles to reach her dream. After suffering an arm injury in 1984, Donatello was unable to find a job for almost a decade. Without much hope, Donatello came to Florida's Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program for employment assistance. VR assists people with disabilities with training, medical treatment, and accommodations so they may become employed.

"The Vocational Rehabilitation program changed me from a very depressed person with no self esteem and allowed me to succeed. If it wasn't for VR, I don't know where I'd be," said Donatello.

Donatello, with her VR Counselor Sue Evans, agreed her goal was to become a pre-school teacher. She signed up for classes at PHCC and also volunteered in the learning lab. She excelled at teaching other students. An administrator told her that if she got her Bachelor's degree she would be given a job at PHCC.

Donatello received a scholarship to complete her Education degree at the University of Tampa. She graduated magna cum laude. As promised, she went to work at PHCC as an instructor.

Learning Lab Coordinator Sue Matheny said, "Charlene is a joy to work with. Regularly there is a line of students waiting to talk with her. She creates a comfortable atmosphere for them to learn." Added Matheny, "I know VR changed Charlene's life allowing her to get an education and work with students. She has come a long way."

Evans said, "When Charlene came here 11 years ago, her academic potential was not evident. Charlene just needed an opportunity to show what she could do. VR provided that to her and she excelled."

February is the fourth anniversary of President Bush's New Freedom Initiative. Florida's VR program is committed to helping people with disabilities find meaningful employment. Last year, VR helped over 9,400 Floridians find or keep jobs. VR has 116 offices across Florida. For information about VR and its services, call 866-515-3692, or visit the VR web site at