I interview Grace one afternoon, her freshly folded pile of monogrammed lab coats beside us. With my phone recording, we discuss her part-time job at Turtleworks. Smiling at the day’s progress on the table, Grace reveals that the lab coats are a rush order from Stanford; they need to be shipped out in just a couple of days.
“Getting this order done today was an accomplishment.”
When Grace was still enrolled in her post-secondary program, she was introduced to Turtleworks and got to tour the small business’s office. She humbly says of the opportunity, “it just fell in my lap,” but her strong work ethic is clear to see. Since joining Turtleworks more than a year ago, Grace has learned to deliver customer satisfaction from start to finish.
Four days a week, Grace arrives at the office in the morning and begins attaching clothing items to magnetic hoops, handling the embroidery machines, and packaging products. She takes botched orders—due to machine glitches and such—in stride, carefully fixing issues as they arise. If faced with an influx of orders, she prioritizes them based on shipment dates—maintaining efficiency. When I ask Grace what motivates her, she answers, “I can run the embroidery machine all by myself now, and that makes me proud because I’m more confident.” Another pillar of her independence, Grace's financial freedom keeps climbing.
In her free time, Grace is an active member of the De Anza running team; her favorite events are long-distance races. She’s not sure what she wants for a career, but she’s figuring it out—last quarter, she took Introduction to Children’s Special Needs and enjoyed the course. She mentions a desire to help the unhoused, too.
As our conversation nears its end, I have one more question.
“Where do you see yourself in five years?”
“Driving to L.A. alone.”
Grace is a theme park enthusiast, and I’m fresh from a summer visit to Disneyland. It’s the perfect chance for us to go through my vacation photos together.
Note: Grace, whose name we have changed to protect her privacy, graduated from her post-secondary program in June of 2022 and became the first neurodiverse employee hired by Turtleworks. She first started working 2-hour shifts for three days each week; now, her schedule has expanded to 4-hour shifts for four or five days each week. In this time, she has gained professional skills and new capabilities. This interview marks the one-year anniversary of her journey with Turtleworks. For a previous interview with Grace, please see our August 22, 2022 article.