Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Photo By Michael Alexander
Ryan Carroll, 26, explains the duties he performs at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite. Standing by his side is Riley Cerone, a career specialist with Briggs & Associates, who works closely with Carroll on various facets of his employment needs. Carroll attends St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Alpharetta. Cerone, a 2009 graduate of Blessed Trinity High School, attends St. Peter Chanel Church, Roswell.


Medical center jobs are breakthrough for young adults with disabilities

By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published March 3, 2016

ATLANTA—Ryan Carroll’s favorite place to be is on the job at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

In his power wheelchair, Carroll navigates the hallways of the hospital’s Scottish Rite campus with ease and speed as he delivers lab specimens from the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center to various departments.

Carroll, 26, has been a Children’s Healthcare employee for more than a year.

“I love it. They have to tell me to go home early, ” said Carroll.

A St. Thomas Aquinas Church parishioner and member of the Knights of Columbus, Carroll graduated with a special education diploma from Roswell High School in 2010.

As a toddler, Carroll suffered from uncontrollable seizures and had a portion of his brain removed. The physical challenges he has are similar to those of stroke victims, including partial paralysis on his left side.

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is one of several hospitals and companies that partner with Briggs & Associates of Roswell, a company that helps those with disabilities train for and find meaningful employment.

Diane Prindle, director of business development for Briggs & Associates, said more than 1,300 young adults graduate from Georgia high schools annually with special education diplomas.

“The sad statistic in all this is that there’s 80 percent who are still unemployed,” said Prindle. “When they get out of high school, their options just plummet.”

Project Search, which began in 1996 at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, offers on-the-job training leading to employment for adults with developmental disabilities. Local collaborators in Project Search include Briggs, the Fulton County school system, the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities and the state Department of Vocational Rehabilitation.

“We started the program 10 years ago,” said Prindle about the endeavor. “We were the second city.”

Prindle, a member of St. Brigid Church in Johns Creek, said connecting with fellow parishioners ultimately led to Children’s Healthcare joining the effort.

Parishioner Terry Newton has an adopted son from Mustard Seed Communities, an international charity providing homes for children with disabilities. A fundraiser for Children’s Healthcare, Newton introduced Prindle to Dr. James Tally, the former CEO of the Atlanta pediatric complex.

“Since that time, 30 individuals with developmental disabilities have been hired at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta in meaningful, long-term jobs. Ryan is one of our more recent hires,” said Prindle.

“It’s one of the best things I’ve been a part of at Children’s,” said Michael Landis, human resources manager. “We’ve had a lot of support of our leadership.”

Prindle and Landis recently presented information at a human resources management conference on how employment programs for people with disabilities can be beneficial to all.

“Purposeful job” is vital

Bishop David P. Talley has known the Carroll family for 10 years since serving as pastor of their church, and of Ryan’s involvement in ministries for individuals with special needs.

“Ryan has now graduated and is a young man. The majority of his life will be spent in adulthood. Like his non-disabled peers, a purposeful job will provide him with his identity and feeling of self-worth,” said Bishop Talley. “There are very few, if any, options that can fill this important space. This is where we need the help of our business community.”

Bishop Talley noted that with support of companies like Briggs, Ryan and hundreds of others have the potential to become valuable employees.

“We must respond by opening our workplace doors to fill this need that no one else can fill,” said the bishop.

Carroll’s mother, Donna Carroll, said the work her son does helps staff determine the chemotherapy and other courses of treatment for patients quickly.

“He has improved cycle time,” she said.

The hospital recently offered more hours of work to Carroll. He works from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. three days a week with extended hours the other days.

Briggs has provided job coaching for adaptive employment to Carroll, education to employers on his capabilities, and sensitivity training.

“Ryan had a job at a local restaurant,” said Donna Carroll. His duties included set-up and portioning dishes.

While he enjoyed working, Carroll was looking for more opportunities, duties and interaction with others.

“They kind of put him in that job and forgot about him. It takes time. That’s where the shortfall is,” said Donna Carroll. “It is a learning process.”

At first, Ryan Carroll was unsure of working in a hospital setting.

“He’s had over 100 surgeries in his life. It’s not the place he wanted to run to,” recalled Donna Carroll.

“I used to be a patient here. That’s how I had the mindset of it,” said Ryan.

After picking up lab specimens from the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, Ryan Carroll waits for the elevator as he makes his return trip to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite. Photo By Michael Alexander

Daily interactions with co-workers caused a shift in his thinking.

“Working here has been so much fun,” he said.

For Carroll’s co-workers, the feeling is mutual.

LuAnn Jinks, medical technologist for Aflac, works in the lab and sees Carroll every day as he picks up specimens to transfer to the main hospital.

“Ryan loves to work. His smile and quick wit bring such a positive note to our day and has endeared him to all,” said Jinks. “He is a very valuable asset to our work family.”

Riley Cerone, graduate of Blessed Trinity High School and Oglethorpe University, is Carroll’s job coach through Briggs & Associates.

“She’s the greatest. She just comes in and checks up on me,” he said.

Cerone works with both Carroll and hospital staff to solve any problems. In early January, they teamed up to look at down time at certain points in the day.

“We’re trying to find a task to fill that time,” explained Cerone.

Cerone has 19 other clients with whom she works to address employment needs. Twelve of them work at Children’s Healthcare and the remainder at Emory University Hospital Midtown.

Employees served by Briggs handle tasks such as stocking medical supplies and equipment or preparing unit dose medications in the pharmacy.

Cerone complimented Carroll’s work ethic and noted that he is getting specimens to their destination quicker than previous runners who were taking time out from other duties to perform the task.

“I’ve never met anyone who loves his job as much as Ryan does,” said Cerone. “He’s a great guy to be around.”

Cerone said Carroll is a “perfect fit” for the position.

“This is what we hope for everybody,” she said.

Next piece is housing

Transportation to and from work was another piece of the puzzle in accepting a job that required a commute.

Carroll said his parents posted a need for a driver on the parish bulletin board. Ryan has gained not only a driver but also a friend in Knights of Columbus member Tom Lattanzio.

“Tom was one of the first ones to call my parents to say he had done this type of work. We just hit it off right away,” said Carroll.

Lack of housing in Atlanta for young adults with disabilities is another issue Donna Carroll and her husband, Kevin, and other parents are tackling through formation of Champions Community Foundation.

The foundation will support Champions Place and Titan Wheelchair Sports. Champions Place will enable young adults with physical disabilities to live independently.

“We’re hoping to build the first of several homes for the physically challenged,” said Donna Carroll. “There will have to be many of these.”

The first Champions Place community will accommodate 16 residents with construction planned in the Johns Creek area. The individuals will be a mix of young adults with physical disabilities who need support and individuals, with or without disabilities, who do not require support.

Ryan Carroll has been an active member of Titan Wheelchair Sports, a ministry of Mt. Pisgah United Methodist Church, for many years. It provides recreational opportunities for adults who have aged out of other programs for special needs athletes.

“It’s a great support for the young adults and their parents,” said Carroll.

When not working, Carroll said he enjoys cooking pizza, pot stickers, Chinese noodles and other dishes with his two younger sisters, Zoe and Abbie, as well as spending time with his older brother. He also enjoys family game nights.

The people he sees throughout the day make Carroll’s job enjoyable. Co-workers often tell Carroll he’s working too much and have to remind him to take a lunch break.

“They’re going to lock the door on me,” said Carroll.

If your workplace could embrace the mission of offering employment to those with disabilities, please contact Diane Prindle at To learn more about the housing initiative of the nonprofit Champions Community Foundation, visit