The story of Garrick Kwan is one of a growth-mindset filled with perseverance, grit and determination. It is also an example of knowing one’s value and worth, believing that a better opportunity awaits. It’s a story which many who walk through the doors of Goodwill of Silicon Valley can relate to; that if you give someone a chance; an opportunity, you never know what they can achieve. Besides a chance, we also need people to believe in us, showing support along the way as we navigate through uncharted waters. For Garrick, like many of us, he just needed a shot.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Garrick, he is currently one of the IT Techs here at Goodwill. If you work at the organization’s main headquarters, chances are that Garrick has helped you troubleshoot some sort of technical computer issue. In my case, Garrick has always kindly assisted with my tech woes, even if sometimes it was determined to be a matter of “user error.” Garrick also provides support to Goodwill’s many retail stores. Even if you have crossed paths with Garrick, you may not know about the personal trials which he has faced, and the resilience he possesses.
Back in 2017, Garrick was enrolled at San Jose State University. His goal: to major in Computer Science. Passing the challenging coursework to obtain this degree is one feat, but Garrick also had to cope with certain challenges which many of us take for granted. His speech, writing and social skills all needed improvement while tackling this daunting curriculum. He enlisted the help of the Kay Armstead for Communicative Disorders department at the school, connecting him to the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR). As a client of the DOR, Garrick enrolled in the Neurodiversity Pathways Program, and began a 6-week work-experience course. He was assigned to a case manager named Tran at the DOR. Garrick said about Tran, “She helped me so much. “She was so patient with me and helped with my speech and communication.” Tran helped to connect Garrick to Goodwill as well. Ivon Perez, the current Program Manager of the Expandability Program – a program which aids those with disabilities find employment – became his first case manager. Ivon and Tran collaborated to provide support, assisting Garrick in developing his employment and living skills outside of his schooling. Garrick’s first job through the DOR program was at Walgreens. Looking back, Garrick told me that this had been a good job for him to develop his employment and social skills, but he knew his skillset and aptitude were deserving of a more challenging role. Ivon Perez said, “Garrick never lost the drive to improve himself, and he was adamant that he would get to land a high-paying job that he knew he wanted and deserved.”
In addition to being supported by the DOR, Garrick also sought additional help through the San Andreas Regional Center, with his goal being to obtain an internship at a company. That company, Cupertino Electric, provided Garrick with the break he needed. The manager at the company witnessed Garrick’s technical abilities and overall value to the company. Garrick ended up completing a 9-month internship. Finally: Enter Goodwill of Silicon Valley.
Following his time at Cupertino Electric, Garrick Kwan did not rest on his laurels. He enrolled in an IT training program (by the way, he did complete his Computer Science degree at San Jose State) which added even more value to his impressive credentials. At Goodwill, he was given a chance – first as a temporary hire– to showcase his skillset. Slowly, he began to turn another corner. As Ivon Perez remembers, “He found his sense of belonging at Goodwill, he found his voice.” Nandor Fejer, Garrick’s current manager and Director of IT at Goodwill added, “We saw Garrick’s drive and determination, and decided to give him an opportunity.” Along with the support of his manager, Garrick found consistent and encouraging support through his Expandability Career Service Coordinator, Delba Shaiju. Eventually, this support helped propel him to a new achievement in his career: his temp role was converted into a full-time staff position within the IT department.
Today, as Garrick Kwan continues to improve in his role, his story is another example of success here at Goodwill, serving as a reminder that you never realize someone’s full potential until they are given a proper chance.
Story by Tyler Thomas