20 Under 40: Jesica McMillan promotes kindness, compassion with Horizons clients

Jesica McMillan welcomes all to Craig office for Horizons.
Andy Bockelman

For area residents facing physical and mental impairment, basic elements of life can be far more difficult than others.

As part of the regional service organization Horizons, Jesica McMillan aims to provide compassionate care for these folks as well as empowering them to maintain as much independence as possible.

In your chosen career field, how has the job evolved since you first began?

If we go back to when I was 10 years old and volunteered along side my grandma working with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, I would say that things have changed a lot. These individuals are more accepted now then they were 23 years ago. The system now is ran to be more person-centered, which is amazing as it leans more toward what the individuals want and need rather then what we think they want and need. The field has definitely evolved for the best. We have gotten away from institutionalized settings and have put more thought into how these individuals can be more independent in their lives.

How do you feel your line of work is different from someone in a similar job a generation before you?

I feel the previous generation spent a lot of time trying to help communities see and understand the individuals that we work with, so they may have been held back from typical things that we do today, like assisting with occupational opportunities, and simple things like going out to eat, bowling or living in their own home. We also have a better understanding now on how to help these individuals cope with their disabilities. We have available resources to us like behavior plans and more assistive devices and technology that they never had before.

What kind of challenges do you feel like you and your coworkers will face in the next decade?

With Horizons being a nonprofit, funding is a huge worry. We get paid with Medicaid dollars and if for some reason that were to decrease, we would definitely have to figure some things out. Another challenge that we are currently working on, with other agencies around Colorado is the End the Wait Campaign. This is a waitlist for individuals who need comprehensive care and services. Some individuals have been on this wait list for 10-plus years, just waiting for a placement in a group home and to receive the care that they need. There has been some progress in this process but we still have a ways to go. I feel that making sure that there is enough funds, care and services to provide adequate assistance for every individual with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities will always be a challenge, but it is also part of the job! 

What is the most rewarding part of your job on a day-to-day basis? 

Every day at my job is rewarding. Visiting with the individuals, talking with them and hearing their stories. Laughing with them, and sometimes crying with them. Spending the holidays with them and knowing that at least for one person, I made them feel like a part of family again. To see the small improvements. Working with an individual for 10 years and seeing the progress that they have made, knowing that I am just a small part of the reason that they can cook their own food, or that they can live on their own. Going into a home and being greeted with a smile, a handshake or hug. Knowing that I make a difference in these individuals lives just by being there. To me this is not a job, it is my passion and these people are my friends.

I think my generation will lift the future of Moffat County. We have a lot of amazing people in this community who want the best for Moffat County and will see it through.

Jesica McMillan

If you hadn’t gone down your particular career path, what else would you have liked to do with your life?

I had always wanted to be a special education teacher and was a paraprofessional for a bit. I love working with children and really enjoyed my job as a para, but my heart belonged to the people of Horizons. 

What types of jobs would you avoid at all costs?

I don’t think that I would want to be famous, like an actor or singer. I hate attention and would rather not have all the attention on me at one time. 

How do you feel your work-life balance differs from those of your parents/grandparents? 

I think that these days it is more common for there to be a two-income family but also more common for woman to work and fathers to stay home. Women are making big moves in this world, something that was really hard to do in previous generations, especially in my grandma’s generation. I think finding the work-life balance takes some practice. It is important to do your work, but also have time for your family as well.

How do you feel everyday life is better or worse in 2020 with certain technology shifts?

Everyday life can be made easier with the technology that we have today. I personally love that I can ask my phone a question and it will answer me. The downfall is the disconnect that the technology provides. Instead of small talk or conversation, the phone takes place. Don’t get me wrong, technology is an amazing thing, I just think that we need to some times take a break from it and enjoy the real world more often. 

What kind of strengths or weaknesses do you believe your generation brings to your career field?

The strength is growing up in a world where differences were starting to become more normalized and less segregated. My generation provides a lot of knowledge with technology and can offer ways to make things easier. 

How do you feel your generation fits into Moffat County’s future

I think my generation will lift the future of Moffat County. We have a lot of amazing people in this community who want the best for Moffat County and will see it through. We have a lot of great ideas that I think will help the future of Moffat County.

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