More Stories

Promoting Independence, That's What I Do

September 11, 2013

Dwane Jolly’s name suits him.

"People who know me say that I'm funny," Dwane said. "I like to make people laugh."

Humor is one of the many great qualities that Dwane brings to his job as the Assistant Supervisor of YAI's East 206th Street residence in the Bronx.

Dwane started his career at YAI 12 years ago, as a Direct Support Professional at YAI's Kingsbridge residence, also in the Bronx. A lifelong resident of the borough and fan of its home baseball team, the New York Yankees, Dwane graduated from Alfred E. Smith High School.

When Dwane's father became terminally ill, he told his son that he did not want to spend his remaining time in the hospital. Dwane wanted his father to be comfortable and to make the most of every moment that he had left, so for the next eight months he lived with and took care of him.

"I administered his medicine every day. I had a list of what to give him," Dwane recalled. "The doctor came once a week to monitor things."

During this time, a friend who worked in the developmental disabilities field noticed Dwane's caring devotion to his father, and told him that when he was ready, he would have a job waiting for him if he wanted it.

After his father passed away, Dwane took his friend up on the job offer. He worked for two years at his friend's agency, and learned more about the disabilities field.

"I started to do some research and there was lots of buzz about YAI," Dwane said. "I inquired about it and went through the interview process, and now here I am."

Reggie was one of the first individuals that Dwane worked with at the residence, and they bonded right away.

"He looked at me like an uncle figure," Dwane said. "He would always ask me for advice. He trusted me to give him the best advice and he would always follow it. When he was satisfied with the end result he'd always come back and thank me. It was rewarding because I felt that I was part of the problem-solving and solution."

Over the years their lives have changed. Both are now at the 206th Street residence – "He followed me here!" Dwane jokes – and their families have expanded.

Dwane is the proud father of a son and two daughters, one of whom has followed in his footsteps and works at YAI, in a day services program.

Last year, Reggie married another resident at 206th Street. When it was time to plan the big day, there was no doubt in his mind about who he wanted to be in the wedding, and Dwane was honored to oblige.

One thing that hasn't changed over time is the connection that Dwane and Reggie share.

"He still asks me for advice," Dwane said. Most recently, Reggie turned to him when he and his wife were exploring whether or not they felt ready to move out of the residence, into a YAI supportive apartment. "I encouraged him to speak with her about it and said that it was important that they make the decision together."

For now, Reggie and his wife have decided to stay at East 206th Street. Dwane, too, is happy where he is.

"I love what I do. It doesn’t pay much, but it's very rewarding to see someone else prosper by learning different skills and things they’re going to need to survive. I'm promoting independence. That's what I do."