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The Lion & the Mouse

In Aesop’s fable “The Lion and the Mouse,” the majestic beast of the jungle opened his jaws to swallow an irritable mouse he caught in his paws. However, the fast-thinking rodent negotiated for his life by offering to help him one day. The lion, with all the jungle at his disposal, chuckled at the thought and released him.

We all know that the mouse soon thereafter saved the lion by gnawing through his captive ropes. You can imagine the mouse, in a Disney-esque way, delivering his aphoristic last line, his little paws on his hip, his little snout turned up into the air, a bit of blue twine placed around his belly by the animators as he dramatically proclaimed: “Was I not right? Little friends may prove a great help.”

About a month ago, an entrepreneurial start-up friend who I’ve known since the beginning of EnCircle Technologies introduced me to a CRM business owner in Wisconsin. She, in turn, gave EnCircle some data manipulation work to do under contract.

Yesterday I watched one of our former students sit at his computer with database and Excel spreadsheet open. He sat for hours, making decisions, doing routine work both of which the job required.

This particular young man has a story — of loss, of cancer, of autism, of an inability to find work with an information technology degree. He is a delightful person but doesn’t fit some outward standard modes. Now that he is not looking for a role through another agency, it’s EnCircle’s turn to help him find steady part-time or full-time tech work (stay tuned).

But, for now, we operate together — he as a person, we as an organization — smallish, without the jungle (lots of money) at our disposal to present like the lion.

But, we are helping: the company in Wisconsin, the family who drove in from St. Louis to see our classes, the worried, worn-out local mother seeking a place for her brilliant son. We are gnawing at ropes of captivity: the high unemployment rate of individuals with autism; the despair that comes from social isolation; the soft skills that need to accompany the hard skills.

My aforementioned student continues to learn programming on his own, continues to smile and say positive things like: “It’s good to see you.” “Your birthday is the same as [celebrity].” “I am happy to be here.” He is overall, despite all, such a wonderful person with gifts and skills.

If you or your company identifies with being the mouse, own it. Being a lion isn’t a bad thing either — although beware the vulnerable ego.

For us, small though we are at EnCircle Technologies, how can we prove a great help to your company? We are capable and persistent. We are building more and more capacity. We are available for contracts. Your mission and our mission can mesh to work together.

Therefore, call me if you need an excellent worker or a job in web development, data entry/manipulation, or video editing.

Working together, positive changes can happen.

Sincerely,

Teri Walden, April 21st 2017

To contact me, inbox or e-mail me at teri.walden@encircletech.org

To donate to EnCircle Technologies, a 501c3, go to www.encircletech.org/donate

To learn more about our program, see our video on our Facebook page. Like us too! www.facebook.com/EnCircletech

Shelter Insurance Team wins Goblet of Power! Who’s next?

Somewhere on a shelf in the vast Shelter Insurance headquarters sits a humongous Goblet of Power and Triumph trophy inspiring their tech workers and beyond. It was brought “home” by the above-pictured happy team of Karson White and Hunter Sadler, who beat the KidsFirst Optimist team in the final rounds.

Teams from Newsy, Columbia Insurance Group, Tin Can Technologies, Landmark Bank, Commerce Bank, Easterseals Midwest, Grandma Daple’s Team, and Central Bank of Boone County were other competitors.

The question is — will Karson and Hunter be so happy in 2017? Will Shelter Insurance as a whole continue to prosper from the good trophy vibes which has been influencing their company undoubtedly on an unprecedented prosperous scale? Who will win our 2017 Sponsor Face-Off tournament?

We shall see! Please join us now as a sponsor for our 3rd Annual EpicEnCircle Video Game Tournament on November 4th, 2017. We had over 100 gamers last year and are expanding our game play to both SuperSmash Bros Melee and Smash 4. The tourney is going to be bigger and better than ever!

We’re still looking for a lead sponsor too. If you would like the tournament named after your company or person, let me know. Otherwise, we have different levels of sponsorship and perks which you can find here.

Truly your support helps keep our mission alive at EnCircle Technologies where we train young adults (high schoolers now too) with autism or other developmental issues in technical skills.

Contact me at teri.walden@encircletech.org for more information. Thank you!

It’s Morphin’ Time!

Late yesterday afternoon, I reluctantly bought my Power Rangers movie ticket, knowing that action and adventure movies typically put me to sleep. All the flashing scenes, designed to enthrall and invigorate the viewer’s senses, leave me depleted. Also when a movie hijacks character development for battle scenes (like in The Hobbit), sellout!

Nonetheless, I bought my PR ticket because I was meeting some EnCircle Technologies’ students for a social outing, and they chose this movie. We met in the lobby, and I took some pictures. One student threw his arm tightly around me, posing, smiling and happy. He busted anyone’s stereotype of autism with that act, although his language challenges prevent him from pontificating about the ugliness of stereotypes.

Power Rangers surprisingly also presented an alternative view on autism.

One of the Rangers admitted that he is “on the spectrum.” He’s a kid named Billy — one of the outcasts found in detention hall that ends up being a superhero. (Yes, Hollywood has a way of making things grand.)

In Billy, we see some characteristic features: hand stimming, obsessiveness, focus, social awkwardness, a history of being bullied. And, we also see his strengths that lend itself to good hero material: no pretenses, sensitivity, bravery, dependence upon a peer to help him understand some things, skill in figuring out hard problems.

Not all individuals with autism have the traits mentioned above. But, Billy does. And, when he becomes the central figure to unify the group, as they both take care of him and trust his abilities and character, he becomes one of the most important Rangers of the film.

I did not see that coming.

As we were leaving the theater, I said to one of my students, “That was cool that one of the Rangers had autism.”

“Yeah, that was pretty cool.”

Moving forward into the parking lot more heroic than before, we went absorbing the power of representation. The power of replacement of weakness for strength. The power of film that helps us visualize possibility.

We were and are appreciative. As the Rangers say, “It’s morphin’ time!” for a new perspective and way of being, for potential to be recognized, and for good to be accomplished by accepting and integrating autistic individuals’ character and skills, despite some differences.

Also, I’m tired of the shortcuts — of seeing the big words DISORDER or DISABILITY used mostly to describe our friends with autism. We can do better, project better, and think more accurately.

And, if we all can squash a huge gold beast-man (the antagonist’s killing machine) in epic battles too, why not? It’s morphin’ time!

~~~~~~

Check out our work at EnCircle Technologies via our new video. https://youtu.be/40hFnM_jk5Q

If you would like to see our lineup of exciting summer classes go to encircletech.org/classes . Now open to ALL learners.

If you wish to donate to help our work stay alive, please go to encircletech.org/donate

Thank you!

Teri Walden

Executive Director/Co-Founder

Perseverance in Community

Each time I read an article on entrepreneurship, the oft-used word persevere jumps out at me and becomes like one of those Disney sidekicks flitting around my head, nipping and ear-panting: “C’mon, Teri, think, think, be smarter than you are, don’t give up, keep going, keep going!”

I think persevere is the word that badgers each mission-driven entrepreneur to pull the brush through her hair every morning and turn the corner of another week of trying, hoping hard, defying fundraising goals, and achieving outcomes.

But, it’s also very much those you encounter and those you work with. At EnCircle Technologies, I have met hundreds of interesting people who have helped me persevere. Looking back to just February, I met a wonderful club of people called the Columbia Metro Rotarians who chose EnCircle Technologies as their annual Trivia Night’s main charity recipient. From Laura Kogut, event chair, to Tom Rose, event emcee, to chapter president Sarah Read, advisor, Jamie Friedrichs, nominator, and Joy Block of Direct Impaqt Printing Services, copy provider — these and all club members helped EnCircle move forward. I am proud to say that EnCircle brought in a record 12 tables thanks to our board members, particularly Scott Mackey, Tom Luckenbill, and Rick Kitchen. I am happy to say that Metro Rotary gained more money for their club’s annual service projects too to benefit the entire community.

The nonprofit entrepreneur’s perseverance then is not so lonely. It’s simply a companionable concept that means: You and others who get it can make a difference. You can change the story (of low employment for those with autism, in our case). We can, together, succeed.

Therefore, I publicly thank the wonderful Columbia Metro Rotary Club for helping us persevere towards our goals at EnCircle Technologies. With several student employment placements this past month, we, together, are making deep, lifetime impacts one student at a time. As the sidekicks say . . .

“Giving up is for rookies.” — Philoctetes, Hercules

“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” — Christopher Robin, Winnie the Pooh

Let’s do this.

Teri Walden, March 12, 2017

#employment #autism #givingback #Rotary #Rotarians #tech #entrepreneurship #socialentrepreneurship #nonprofit #hope

Work Based Tech Learning at EnCircle Technologies

Here at EnCircle we do everything we can to help our students. We offer courses and resources that can’t be found anywhere else in the midwest. We even host the biggest Super Smash Brothers tournament in the midwest each year. However, there is one aspect of what we do that doesn’t get as much attention. Our work based learning program is an incredible program that offers students the opportunity to learn new skills while gaining real world professional experience. As project manager I have unique insight into the inner workings of this program, and I’d like to share some of that insight with you.

When I first started working at EnCircle I didn’t know as much as I do now about web development. I have been fortunate to have gained many of my skills here at EnCircle through assisting with the classes and on the job experience. As our work based learning program has grown, I have had the pleasure of witnessing our students learn the same skills that have empowered and enabled me. The experience they gain in this program, doesn’t only prepare them for the technical challenges they will face in the job market. It also helps them build their confidence and communication skills.

In my opinion and experience with our students, the technical stuff is the easy part. The challenging part is helping them gain the confidence they need to market themselves fairly and to compete for jobs. Non-inclusive social standards have made it difficult for many of our students to appreciate their own strengths.

Our work based learning program is a fully operational web development company. We do work for small businesses and organizations around Columbia and elsewhere. Our student employees work together as a team on these professional projects. Working as a part of a team of their peers, gives our students the opportunity to see their strengths shine. When we complete a website for a client, the students get to experience the feeling of contributing tangible value to a company and getting paid for it. This experience is vital to one’s ability to view him or herself as a high-value professional.

At EnCircle, our goal is to provide our students with everything they need to become successful tech professionals. Our work based learning program is one of the most practical and vital of all of the resources we offer. If you have a website project or maintenance need, please let us know so that we can continue providing these opportunities to our students. In return, you will get a high-quality website to grow on too.

 

Peter Wryostek

EnCircle Technologies Project Manager, Instructor, Web Developer