- Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission
Media Contact for A Career Helping Others: Rachel Chapman
Colleen G. Casey, Director of Communication
Growing up in Minnesota, Rachel Chapman knew from an early age that she wanted to be a vocational rehabilitation counselor. Her journey to this choice and career path did not exactly come easy. She vividly remembers a conversation with her vocational rehabilitation counselor when it came time for her to start the college application process.
“He met me and told me that I was too stupid to go to college,” Chapman recalled. “I am a person with a disability. After he said that I left his office and never went back.” Chapman certainly proved him wrong. Upon graduation from high school, she attended Bethel University and received her undergraduate degree, and immediately following, earned a Master’s in Social Work from Boston University.
“I knew from that conversation that a career in vocational rehabilitation is what I wanted to do,” she said. I would never treat a person with a disability that way.”
Two Decades with MRC
This month marks Chapman’s 20th anniversary as a senior vocational rehabilitation counselor for the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, the Commonwealth’s premiere agency dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities to live and work independently. In her two decades with the agency, Chapman has helped thousands of individuals, and always sees the positives, no matter the situation.
An incredible example of Chapman’s dedication to helping others happened 10 years ago. “A silversmith came to me because she had a stroke. Prior to that, she had been making beautiful handmade jewelry,” said Chapman. “She lost the use of one of her hands due to the stroke and was devastated. She said to me, ‘this is my passion and I can’t do it anymore.’”
Chapman reached out to MRC’s engineering department and had them look at her client’s equipment that she used to make jewelry. Together they were able to create tools and devices that adapted the process to allow her client to use one hand instead of two.
“We were able to accomplish this goal and she is back in business,” Chapman said. “In any case, you have to see the limitations. You have to see the barriers because until you understand that you can't come up with the appropriate solutions. But you always need to be able to see the positives.”
Along with her duties she performs each day as a senior vocational rehabilitation counselor, Chapman is involved with several extra duties and initiatives both within the Lowell Office and statewide. These include serving as back-up supervisor, mentoring new counselors and colleagues, and serving as conduits for the office neuro-psychological consultant and the MRC/DDS partnership. She also is a member of the Statewide MRCIS User Group and provides technical support and updates to her colleagues related to MRCIS. Chapman also serves as liaison for four high schools within the Lowell Office catchment area.
“Rachel is a kind, compassionate and empathetic person who approaches her job each day with integrity,” said Lowell Office Manager Tim Rodden.
“Her highest priority is to serve, support, and advocate for her clients by doing what’s needed for their benefit and well-being by providing timely and quality services to them. She’s dependable and reliable to both her clients, colleagues, and other third-party providers. She’s resourceful and makes herself available as needed to support her clients and colleagues. She is one of the best Counselors within MRC.”
In recognition of her outstanding commitment to the issues concerning people with disabilities, Chapman was awarded the prestigious Yvonne Johnson National Leadership Award from the National Rehabilitation Association this month. She accepted the award on behalf of all the individuals with disabilities she has worked with.
“It has also been a privilege to walk alongside many individuals with disabilities in order to help them reach their goals and assist many to obtain competitive employment,” Chapman said. “Each individual is unique, and they make my days interesting to say the least. The barriers and challenges that they face and overcome with my support and encouragement make them the true leaders and I would like to acknowledge their hard work and accept this award on behalf of them.”
She added, “I greatly enjoy my job and I’m committed to continuing to make a difference on a daily basis. My job however, cannot be accomplished working in a vacuum and I have been blessed to work as part of a great team of professionals. It truly does take a village.”