Johnson County Developmental Supports staff Jessa Molina honored for ‘outstanding’ career support work

Jessa Molina (center), business account manager for Johnson County Developmental Support Services and facilitator with End-Dependence Kansas, was recently named a recipient of the the 2020 Direct Support Professional of the Year award for her work in career support and development for people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. Photo courtesy Jessa Molina.

Jessa Molina, a staff member at Johnson County Developmental Supports, was named a recipient of the 2020 Direct Support Professional of the Year award. An honor given by The American Network of Community Options and Resources, the award recognizes Molina among more than 50 other professionals who support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The Direct Support Professional of the Year awards recognizes “outstanding” professionals who deliver long-term support and services to people with intellectual/developmental disabilities, according to The American Network of Community Options and Resources. The awards celebrate the role these professionals play in ensuring people are included and empowered in the community.

As a business account manager for JCDS, Molina works with people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities to connect them with professional growth opportunities. Molina said she was excited and shocked to learn she won the award.

“It feels great to be recognized, it’s motivating to be recognized,” she said. “It makes me want to work even harder for those people that we support.”

Jessa Molina said she helps individuals gain self-esteem and pride in their work, regardless of any disability. Photo courtesy Jessa Molina.

Melissa Reeves, community relations manager for JCDS, said “no one was surprised” when she won the award.

“She has a track record of just exceptional work for the past three and a half years that she’s been here,” Reeves said. “She has had an amazing impact on the people we serve and in helping to facilitate our employment program. Anybody who has worked with her or has seen her work knows that she is just a tenacious and smart, kind, hard-working woman and an asset to our agency and to Johnson County. We are so fortunate to have her.”

One of Molina’s primary roles is career development support for individuals at JCDS and cultivating business partnerships in Johnson County. She also helps facilitate the End-Dependence Kansas Program for the agency. The progressive employment model introduces people with IDD to new job opportunities and long-term employment, such as with food services, animal and pet services and retail work.

“For some of them that may have been separated their whole life in a different class or special ed, they now are integrated and working alongside people that do not have a disability,” Molina said. “For them to be integrated, I have seen the results of people’s moods — their pride and self-esteem goes up.

“Everyone can work with the right supports, and if people want to work, we have so many great programs and options for people.”

Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, Molina continues to facilitate job coaching and internship placement for those at JCDS.

“Even through the pandemic, they still have the same rights and fears as anybody else. It’s a scary time for anybody,” Molina said. “People with IDD, they’re just like you or me. They’re equally scared and anxious about this change, and our organization is really trying to provide choice-driven supports through that.”

Molina will receive the award in a virtual ceremony May 6.