Beverly Ficon, of Verona, NJ, had always loved working in the field of education; in fact, she rose to become president of the Katherine Gibbs College in Montclair, NJ. But when her peers might be feted at retirement parties, this grandmother of six had an experience that put her on the path to her current career.
“Starting with my own granddaughter, I became aware of the difficulties family members may have coping with a child on the spectrum,” she told NextTribe. She put away any thoughts of retirement and started helping those with autism achieve important milestones in their lives.
She worked as a job coach for children with autism at Millburn High School and volunteered at a children’s agency, but then she found an organization, Spectrum Works, whose mission is to provide job training and employment to individuals with autism.
Feeling Good by Doing Good
Spectrum Works is a nonprofit that partners with companies to make them more inclusive of those with autism and also trains young adults and places them in rewarding jobs. Beverly has worked at the organization for three years, helping almost 100 students—and loves the work.
“The pleasure and satisfaction one receives in giving back is never to be underestimated,” she says. “Employers must come to realize that autistic men and women can be valuable, productive employees.” She cites some of her favorite success stories, including Dennis Taylor, a student she coached who is now a full-time graphic designer and has a consulting role on a national TV show.
As for her own career, it’s going strong. “Retirement? Not any time soon! I am at a special place in life that gives me something to look forward to each and every day,” explains Beverly, who just turned 84. “Bringing young adults on the spectrum to a caring and accepting environment that can help carve out their career futures is a joy.”
Image at top: Cartoon was developed by Dennis Taylor, one of Beverly Ficon’s students. Dennis developed cartoon likenesses for several Spectrum Works staffers.