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Kianna Lehman: Achieving independence through full-time work

Kianna Lehman
By the time she was 16, Kianna Lehman was a hard-working teen, already a manager at Burger King while attending high school. Her life changed dramatically when she started experiencing physical changes including vision loss. Kianna found out she had optic neuritis - inflammation of the optic nerve - and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at age 18.

Despite her new challenges, Kianna was determined to move ahead with her educational goals and become the first in her family to earn a college degree. She completed her associate degree in Business Management at Minneapolis Community and Technical College and her bachelor's degree from Metropolitan State University in 2013.

Kianna participated in Vocational Services through Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute shortly after completing college. She began with a vocational evaluation which helped her address some personal challenges and develop new job goals. She also completed the Institute's Work Readiness and Pre-Placement Services.

"The hardest part was realizing that my earlier visions for myself would have to wait and I needed to consider different types of work right now. But when I realized I could help others, especially others like me, I thought, 'I can do this!'"

And, she did! Kianna was hired as a receptionist at Metropolitan Center for Independent Living (MCIL) in St. Paul. At first she worked part-time, but she quickly moved to full-time work. The Institute's Extended Employment program is now helping her remain on the job. She meets with a Vocational Services staff member twice a month to support her and address any job issues she may have. The contact has been especially helpful when she is feeling overwhelmed, she says, and has helped problem solve job modifications like a new lumbar support for her chair at work. In November 2016, Kianna will celebrate two years of full-time employment.

"The staff at Courage Kenny are friendly and go above and beyond to help you," she said. "As hard as it may seem, you will like your results."