Keng’s Special Path

WIOA Participant Story

Keng came to us right after high school. He was a student in Special Education at East High and was referred by his teacher. As he was just graduating, he had little work experience and was seeking guidance on identifying his dream job and gaining employment skills to achieve it.

Despite his teachers and counselor having great things to say about him, Keng didn’t have much self-confidence and felt he needed more support to shape his goals. However, there were some obstacles that Keng knew he would need resources to help him overcome.

It came as a pleasant surprise when Keng was paired with Der Lo, a Career Planner in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) program, who had previously spent time with him in her previous position at his high school. Their familiarity allowed them to speak candidly about what Keng really wanted to achieve and what his dream career was. They identified that he wanted to find employment that gave back to Special Education students, so they explored a few possible certification programs and found a technical diploma program through Northcentral Technical College.

Keng was concerned about sustaining himself while pursuing this new plan, but was incredibly motivated. He wanted more work experience within a youth setting, so he and Der talked about employability skills, his strengths and weaknesses. He was placed in a paid work experience opportunity at The Boys and Girls Club where he worked a total of over 300 hours. During this time, he learned how to work in a team environment to help club members. He received gas vouchers which helped him get to and from work and even made a budget plan for the money he earned.

With the new work experience, he updated his resume, which gave him the confidence to apply to a summer job with the Wausau School District. With all of this, Keng is learning to advocate for himself, ask questions and gain self-confidence. He has so much to offer employers and is always willing to step a little outside his comfort zone and think more positively about the skills he already has.

Keng wants to pursue more education to help him achieve his goals of working alongside Special Education teachers. He recently toured Northcentral Technical College and is talking with a Career Coach to help him plan out his educational goals for obtaining the Introduction to Education certification.

Der says, “I’m so proud of all his accomplishments thus far. Through it all, he maintains a positive outlook in life and continues to find ways to overcome some of his barriers. He has so much to offer employers and really is a hard worker. I’m excited to see him set and meet his goals.”

Keng has his sights set on the future. He is learning to make, save, and budget so that he can eventually travel the world, especially Korea.


Want to level-up your skills? Learn how with the WIOA program!