Ideas that Work, office of special programs U.S. Department of Education

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Profile Essay about Information Specialist Tammie Sebastian
Nikolette Sebastian
Profile essay

The old saying goes “It takes a village to raise a child”, but it really takes someone willing to advocate to help a child grow and succeed. That is exactly what Tammie Sebastian stands for as a person. Most kids do not have the important skill set of self-advocacy, and everyday struggle to get the help they need to strive in school. Sebastian’s job and purpose is to help these kids and their parents to achieve these skills and get the proper help that they need.

We sat down in the two office chairs of her quaint self-made home office and dove into her work as an information specialist for the OCECD (Ohio Coalition for the Education of Children with Disabilities). Sebastian started her advocacy in 2011, but her involvement with children with disabilities did not start there. Prior to this job, Not only did Sebastian work as an aid for children with disabilities, but has also had plenty of experience with her two children with disabilities as well. With her oldest daughter being diagnosed with ADHD at a very young age, and then several years later, her youngest daughter being diagnosed with high functioning Asperger’s, Sebastian had to learn proper advocacy expeditiously. In which only set her up for the career ahead of her.

When Sebastian’s children first got diagnosed it was a lot to handle. While she knew the basics of advocacy, she had to learn quickly every child is different and requires different care and advocacy. It was not very easy for Sebastian when her eldest daughter was diagnosed with ADHD. Sebastian as a parent at the time had to fight for upwards of 3 years to get her daughter the proper help that she needed. This only strengthened her advocacy skills to later on be faced with another challenge of her youngest being diagnosed with Asperger’s. While she got the accommodations her daughter needed almost right away, Sebastian is still faced with new challenges to this day, 4 to 5 years later. Which in turn make her career and personal life share a vast amount of similarities. All coming with their own hardships. These including the skills that she learned for her job. Such as, the amount of patience and resilience. With dealing with not only her children but the kids she took on inside of her job. Taking on the role of advocacy not only as a parent but for her career as well.

The passion that exuded from Sebastian as the interview went on was indescribable. There is no question that Sebastian does not absolutely love what she does. “Helping and seeing kids succeed educationally and seeing the parents when they learn how to properly advocate for their children” Sebastian stated passionately. Sebastian is in this for all the right reasons. She does her job not only to help see kids succeed but to help the parents to succeed as well. Starting with the parents is something undeniably important in advocacy to Sebastian, without the right support group it makes it that much more challenging to help the child succeed. Granted it is not an easy job either, Sebastian must attend IEP/ETR meetings, go to and provide trainings, and take on the role of social media coordinating on social platforms. During such meetings Sebastian is there to provide the parent with all the help that they may need. She is there to help advocate for the parent and help them get the child the accommodations they may need. Whether that be small group testing or a separated learning environment, she is there for it all. With that Sebastian has a vast skill set to help along with her job. Such as, having great communication skills, a strong passion, organization, and a strong sense of leadership. When working in a job such as this, these skills are necessary for the fact that they determine whether or not the children Sebastian is helping will get the accommodations that they need. Which is detrimental because without the accommodations the child may not reach their full potential. It has 100% helped to shape Sebastian's morals and has made Sebastian into the woman that she is today.

When asked “Who are you in your organizations eyes?” Sebastian jokingly stated that she was “ asset”, although that is not far from the truth. With 1 main office and 15 or more other regional offices, every one of those employees that is set to the city becomes a required asset. The OCECD needs its regional employees to help to expand their cause and to grow into more cities, therefore being able to help many more kids to succeed. Sebastian taking on the whole county of Cuyahoga, is time consuming to say the least. Although what Sebastian does is very selfless she feels accomplished when she is able to help a kid get the proper help that they need. At the end of the day it is about helping the kids” Sebastian stated, no matter how much work is thrown Sebastian's way, to her it is all worth it if she can at least see one kid succeed.

It takes not only a strong work ethic but a strong passion inside of you to execute and complete a job to the best of your ability. It is not always the easiest thing to deal with huge workloads and a phone filled with voicemails that are unanswered. Sebastian obtains all of this and completes her job to the absolute best of her ability, while still feeling satisfied that she helped a family and a child and/or parent to succeed in one of the most important traits to have for success, Advocacy. There is no doubt that Sebastian is passionate about her job and a hard worker. While Sebastian brings a new meaning to “It takes a village to raise a child”, she also brings to the table “enough advocacy to help a small village”.
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