Member Spotlight - Paul J. Barnes

1. Tell us about yourself. Feel free to tell us about your family, hobbies, interests, etc:

I was born the youngest of five children, two brother and two sisters. They will tell you that I was out of control and full of energy. For those who know and work with me now, not much has changed. My entire childhood was spent in Lehi, Utah, in the same home that my parents built just after they were married in 1952. I enjoy woodworking and have built various projects around the house. I also love to garden, whether it be vegetables or flowers, they are my therapy after a long day. My wife and I have nine children and are anxiously awaiting the birth of our 11th grandchild in April. We live in Saratoga Springs, about five miles west of where I grew up.

2. What was your path into the field of rehabilitation? Please tell us about your education, any “ah ha” moments, mentors and other influences:

I have completed the majority of my Associate level coursework and plan to finish that and go on to complete my Bachelors in psychology. I have spent years in the trenches, starting with personal aide, case manager and then the last 19 years in employment. My career has been shaped and influenced by many people. I was asked back in 1997 to see if job development was a good fit, well here I am enjoying it all these years later. Many vocational rehabilitation counselors, supervisors and community partners have mentored me and enabled me to become successful in this field.

3. What accomplishment are you most proud of (professional or personal)?:

In 1998 I received a referral for a man with down syndrome. He and his family put trust in me and I ran with it, we created an onsite mentoring program, coupled with great support from his family. Long story short, early next year he will celebrate 19 years with his employer. I love this profession and the people we are able to serve.

4. Why did you join NRA and what impact has membership had on your career?:

Next year will be my 7th year as a member of the NRA. I was encouraged by my boss, Kim Nortz to join, and revive the JPD division in Utah. We were able to get a core group of professionals and within a year we had a thriving chapter. I was able to attend the NRA conference in 2013, through a scholarship from the Utah state chapter and have attended every fall conference since then. I feel the NRA has moved my career to a new level, with the training I receive and the people I have built relationships with, it pushes me to be the best I possibly can.

5. What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about a career in rehabilitation?:

Anyone who enjoys being creative and making a real difference in the lives of others, should pursue a career in rehabilitation. There is nothing more rewarding than to see someone who never thought they could work, and has been sidelined either part or all of their life, find a job where they and the employer see value in what they can contribute in a mutually beneficial way.