Student Success Stories

don purdey workabilityThe WorkAbility III Program

In these tough economic times, finding a job can be a real challenge for anyone. For those with disabilities, the challenge can seem insurmountable. Yet for these three students, help came from Diablo Valley College. 

At DVC, the WorkAbility III program provides job placement and job retention services to DVC students with disabilities who are also clients of the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR). The program is a partnership contract between DVC and the California State Department of Rehabilitation. 

The DVC program provides assistance one-on-one and through workshops, and includes developing a résumé, honing interviewing skills, developing job-search strategies, providing job leads and employer introductions, assistance with the job application process, and preparation for job interviews. Participants enroll in Learning Skills 056 (Adaptive Computer Technology) where they receive instruction in computer literacy as it relates to the job search. 

Non-DVC students can be eligible through authorization from the DOR. 

After graduating from Lodi Academy in Lodi, CA, Don Purdey (photo above) of Bay Point earned a certificate in electronics in 1999. But when he was looking for a job in 2010, he came to DVC and entered the WorkAbility III program. 

“WorkAbility III was recommended to me as an aid to help me find employment.” Purdey said. “The program provided interview preparation and practice, job leads, counseling on doing a job search, answering questions and just basically supporting me during my job search.” 

He was with the program about six months, and then left in December 2010 when he got a job with Calidad Industries doing building and ground maintenance at Camp Parks Army Base in Dublin. 

“The thing about WorkAbility III that stuck with me,” Purdey said, “was how much fun interviews were. I practiced interviewing so much that I began to enjoy them! I would interview for a job I knew I didn’t qualify for just for the experience of interviewing. I would come out of the interview excited because I knew that I had done well.” 

He also learned that he needed to be persistent. “When I got discouraged, I would talk to my counselor, who would put me in a better mood so that I could get back to my job search quickly, instead of wasting time being down in the dumps when I should be looking for work.” 

Now that he is happily at work, Purdey said. “My counselor in the WorkAbility program gave me the job lead, helped me fill out the application, and practiced interviewing with me. 

“I would definitely recommend the program to anyone who is serious about getting a job,” he continued. “First, WorkAbility gives support by training you on how to do a job search. Second, when you have problems with the job search, you get individual attention and support that you would not have otherwise, and that can make the difference in obtaining a job or not.” The training also includes building a résumé and tips to help in the job search or in following through with an employer. 

“I’m glad I went through the WorkAbility program,” Purdey said. “I learned important job-seeking skills that give me the confidence to know that I can always find a job should I need to look for work again. I currently have a good job that I would not have known about if I had not gone through the program.” 

Eric Olafsson of Walnut Creek graduated from Miramonte High School, attended Fullerton Junior College, and transferred to San Diego Sate University, where he earned a BA degree in sociology in 2001. 

After graduation, he worked in teaching, coaching, refereeing, and recreational coordination at schools and athletic clubs, working with students from pre-school through college age. Then, in 2006, he entered DVC’s WorkAbility III program. 


“Up to that point, I had only been on the whistle-blowing side of recreation,” he said. “I knew nothing of the programming, marketing, promotion and administrative side of recreation, and I needed to develop the job skills to get to that next level in recreation. I needed help with interviewing, learning how to use Excel, creating a résumé and cover letter, creating written programming for summer camps and league administration and for summer camp portfolios, including a marketing timeline. 

“Sue Arnett in the WorkAbility program helped me create a universal résumé, cover letter, thank you note, and sent me on a few informational interviews in the field. She helped me create programming and marketing materials, gave me vocational coaching and guidance, and helped me find a programming position with the Mt. Diablo Region YMCA as a Youth Sports Coordinator.” 

Eric had worked most recently as the recreation coordinator for the Community Service District of Cameron Park outside Sacramento, coordinating the district’s recreational activities, including swim lessons, summer camps, flag football, basketball, activities at the skate park, and hosting July 4 fireworks and summer concerts. 

When his wife got a job offer from Chevron, they moved back to the Bay Area from Sacramento, and Eric returned to several of the recreational jobs he had held previously. 

Then, in December 2010, Eric was hired as the Athletic Director for the City of Walnut Creek. He coordinates games with middle schools in the area, hires, recruits, and trains coaches, creates game rosters, schedules referees, collects and distributes registration material, sets up team parties, and markets the programs. 

During the past year, he also worked for the University of California as an event representative at Cal home football games, refereed youth sports at the YMCA, and worked special events for the Oakwood Athletic Club in Lafayette. 

How did WorkAbility help? “The program gave me the training, confidence, interview skills and technical skills to do my job and other jobs in the field of recreation,” Eric said. “I would recommend the program, especially Sue Arnett, to anyone and everyone. I would not be where I am today without her help and guidance.” 

Joycelyn Walker, formerly of San Ramon and now of Rio Vista, graduated from high school in Chicago in 1967, and after retirement, decided she wanted to become a professional pet caregiver/sitter. She studied for the Veterinary Assistant certificate and then, in January 2010, she enrolled in DVC’s WorkAbility III program. 

“Having the VA certificate assures my clients that I can properly care for their pets,” she said. But she needed help with the job-seeking skills necessary to re-enter the work force, and was referred to WorkAbility. 

“This program helped me to visualize my dream of being self-supportive into my retirement years,” she said. “The staff provided counseling, helped with interview skills, helped me with résumé design, and gave me job leads. I gained confidence and security through this program, and now I’m working towards fulfilling my dream. I would highly recommend WorkAbility.” 

Three students at different stages of their lives, in three entirely different careers, now all happily employed thanks to the help they received from DVC’s WorkAbility III program. For more information about the program, contact a WorkAbility III representative at the DVC Career and Employment Services Center.