NW Works is pleased to introduce Bonnie Zampino, our Customized Employment Manager. She joined NW Works in April of 2022. Within her role, she focuses on career exploration opportunities for the individuals we serve and will begin providing benefit counseling services to individuals with disabilities.
Bonnie was born in Syracuse, NY but moved several times in her childhood around the east coast. She had her own career exploration as a teenager, working her first job in a Little Georges grocery store frying chicken. Turns out, like many of us when we take our first job, that she didn’t like it much. But after a stint at Roy Rogers, where she gained her first experience in management, Bonnie began a career in human resources, which she enjoyed much more.
When her son was two years old, Bonnie unexpectedly entered the disability world. Her son, now 18, was diagnosed with Autism and Bonnie quickly became immersed in the work of finding a special needs preschool and getting an Individualized Education Program for her son, as well as additional services.
“It was a challenge as a single mom,” she said. “I had a need for out-of-school care for him that really didn’t exist. […] An environment that was sensitive to children with disabilities.”
Bonnie ended up starting a nonprofit childcare center that catered toward neurodivergent children, although it closed not long after opening due to low enrollment. However, she connected with Grafton Integrated Health Network, joining their team as a manager in an Applied Behavior Analysis practice in Charles Town, WVa.
She later transitioned to Grafton’s Ukeru Systems training team, helping other organizations across the nation make the switch to non-restraint and non-seclusion practices. At that time, she also worked in Grafton’s psychiatric unit during the evenings. Bonnie felt she needed to understand the environment the staff were in to properly be a champion for the Ukeru system.
“I had never been in the milieu, I’d always been in more administrative roles,” she said. “ I felt like I needed the experience [to build credibility].”
In 2018, Bonnie joined the Shenandoah Valley Workforce Development Board as a Center Manager before being promoted to the Director of Workforce Services. There, she focused on building connections between employers and those seeking work, as well as assisting job seekers with the hard and soft skills needed to gain and maintain employment.
Today, Bonnie sees parallels between her first job and her role at NW Works.
“I think we as neurotypical individuals have looked at people with disabilities and thought ‘Well they can do custodial work or landscaping.’ There’s a lot more that the folks we support can do, they just need to have the opportunity to try and see what they like,” she said. “Just like I did when I worked at Little Georges frying chicken. I tried it and I didn’t like it, and the individuals we support are no different.”
Within her role at NW Works, Bonnie focuses on learning about individuals’ strengths, interests and abilities, and determining what careers would fit them well. Additionally, she is developing relationships with local businesses to identify opportunities for adults with disabilities to work or participate in job shadowing and establishing assessment sites. Additionally, her role will expand to provide benefits counseling to individuals served at NW Works. Eventually, she will provide additional benefits counseling services to others in the community who do not receive traditional services at NW Works.
“When I’m doing this, I think a lot about my son. He’s 18, he just graduated from high school and this summer he got his first job. And I didn’t even think it would be a reality for him when he was younger,” she said. For the individuals at NW Works, she hopes to see more exposure and opportunities for meaningful work. “Just being offered to be able to work and be part of the community, and to have a life just like anyone else does. To make money, build relationships, and be productive. It’s important. It’s important to everybody and people with disabilities are no different.”
When she’s not helping individuals with disabilities explore different career options, Bonnie immerses herself in local history. She has researched and written about the stories of Civil War soldiers in Harpers Ferry, WVa. and even discovered an unmarked Union cemetery. Her goal is to ensure the soldiers’ lives and sacrifices are not forgotten.