Meet Tanya Vitela
Tanya Vitela joined Best Buddies as a Project SEARCH intern at Embassy Suites in 2016. Tanya stood out all year for being hard-working and dedicated. She had almost perfect attendance at Project SEARCH, walking a mile every day to the bus stop where she would catch the bus to Embassy Suites. Tanya applied the self-advocacy skills she learned from Best Buddies in her internship in the kitchen, where an employee was making inappropriate and disrespectful jokes to co-workers. Tanya had the courage to respectfully confront the employee about his ongoing behavior, and told him that his jokes made other employees uncomfortable. The employee was clearly affected by Tanya standing up for a fellow colleague, because he stopped making the jokes, and started being more respectful of all of his co-workers.
In 2017, Tanya’s mother moved out of the family mobile home and left Tanya to live on her own with her dog for the frst time. It soon became clear that Tanya needed support learning basic life skills like cooking, grocery shopping, and personal care. Tanya’s Employment Consultant, Alex Rios, and the rest of the Project SEARCH team stepped in to help Tanya learn these skills.
During this time, Tanya had graduated from Project SEARCH and obtained a promising job at a local pet store as a merchandiser. Ultimately she was asked to leave her job due to concerns from the management that Tanya had contaminated the store with parvovirus from her shoes and clothes.
Tanya bounced back, determined to fnd a new job and a better place to live. Tanya was soon hired as a Banquet Server at Embassy Suites and she established a family among her colleagues and co-workers. Tanya now trains new hires in her department. Tanya’s Employment Consultant, Alex, helped her identify an appropriate apartment for Tanya near her workplace. Alex helped Tanya plan to save up for the costs of moving into a new apartment with her dog. At the end of 2017, Tanya was fnally able to move into her own apartment in a vibrant neighborhood near the University of New Mexico. Her quality of life has improved signifcantly since she has become completely self-reliant.
“I live on my own and I love it because I can do whatever I want, even though I do my own chores. I love doing my own chores at my own house. Especially after working at the hotel, I have higher standards for cleanliness in my apartment” she said.
Living by myself helps me be more independent, gain confidence, and help myself more. Having my own job and my own apartment makes me feel empowered to know that I have something that I can control.
I have grown so much from being an intern and trying to fgure out what I wanted to do, to where I am now. I never thought I’d be this independent woman that I am, and I like to think about what the future holds for me from here on out. I just want to keep improving myself to be the best person I can be,” said Tanya.