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01-14-14: Advance Program graduate excels as laundry attendant
01-14-14: Advance Program graduate excels as laundry attendant
Posted on 01/14/2014

Her co-workers praise her as a hard worker who comes to work early, fills in wherever needed, and teaches them basic sign language to improve communication.Image


She is also the one who is always smiling, they say, even on the busiest of days at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Puyallup.


Cassie Callaway, who has been deaf since birth, has spent the last year and a half as a laundry attendant at the 120-room facility, which opened two years ago near downtown Puyallup.


During a recent work shift, Callaway moved quickly about the laundry room as she filled washing machines and driers, folded towels, removed laundry from a chute, sorted linens into oversized blue bins, and fed clean pillowcases into an industrial strength pressing machine.


The 2009 Rogers High School graduate also frequently moves racks of clean linens and towels to centralized housekeeping storage areas on different floors to help prepare for the next set of guests.


Callaway joined the Fairfield Inn & Suites staff one month before she graduated from the Puyallup School District’s Advance Program. The program enrolls 19- to 21-year old students with special needs and provides post-high school instruction geared toward job training and employment.


Students learn, for example, how to create resumes and portfolios, do mock job interviews, and zero in on career interests.


Callaway said the program, as well as her previous education in the Puyallup School District, helped her to prepare not only how to get a job, but how to be successful in the workplace.


“The Advance Program helped me to become independent and learn responsibility,” she said.


ImageCallaway lives in Puyallup and drives herself to and from work, having recently passed her driver’s license test. She works about 15 hours each week.


“She has a great attitude, is willing to do whatever she is asked, and participates in everything our staff does,” said Chuck Valley, general manager of the Fairfield Inn & Suites. “The staff just loves her.”


So much so, in fact, that six of Callaway’s co-workers attended her graduation ceremony to celebrate her completion of the Advance Program in June 2012.


“We are just so proud of her,” said Housekeeping Manager Amanda Kampe, one of those who attended the graduation. “We were all screaming and waving at her, and she was all smiles.”


Callaway said she was touched that her co-workers would show up at her graduation. “It made me feel happy that they were there to support me,” she said.


Housekeeping employees use a variety of tools to communicate with Callaway at work, including sending text messages by phone, writing notes on paper, and practicing various words or phrases that they have learned to sign.


Kampe said she most often signs “king” and “queen” (to communicate about king- or queen-sized bed sheets), as well as motions for common phrases such as “thank you.”

Callaway’s mother, Sally, said she is proud of how her daughter has grown and matured.


“She has become very independent,” her mother said. “She is dedicated to her job at Fairfield Inn, takes the responsibility to get herself to work on time, and is very willing to work whenever they need her.”


Former teachers also praised her work ethic


 “Cassie always had lots of determination, which I greatly admire,” said Zeiger Elementary teacher Mindy Noland, who worked with Callaway in the Rogers High School deaf and hard-of-hearing program. “She has worked very hard to become the independent, productive adult that she is today.”


Advance Program teacher Lanny Gleason added, “She is just such a pleasant young lady and will be an asset for any employer.”


Callaway’s future plans including attending college to study movie animation. Her goal is to attend the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, which has nine academic colleges including the National Technical Institute for the Deaf.