The National Rehabilitation Association is truly fortunate to have so many active, talented and committed members. We would like to feature more members through Member Spotlights.
To give you an idea of the value of Member Spotlights, the following is Sara Sundeen’s Member Spotlight. We know you will appreciate Sara’s words of wisdom and will be encouraged by her example.
NRA Member Spotlight
Name: Christa Martin, MRC/CRC
Tell us about yourself. Feel free to tell us about your family, hobbies, interest, etc:
I currently work as an Employment Specialist for the Kentucky Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR). I am a wife to a wonderful husband, and a mother to an amazing little boy! Of course, I can't leave out our Miniature Schnauzer rescue Herbie, or Herbert when he is in trouble. We have our geldings, a Draft-Cross named Gimli and Miniature Horse named Penzey, plus our two barn cats that are quite comical to say the least.
I am extremely passionate about good food, whether I'm the one cooking/baking it or not, especially when it can be shared with others. As I always say, "Good food, good people, good times!" It's a wonderful way to connect with people and cultures around the world. I enjoy travel, photography, birding, gardening, music, movies, spending time with my family and friends, etc. I love to experience new things in new places!
Are you a member of any divisions?
I am a member of one division of the National Rehabilitation Association (NRA). I currently serve as Treasurer to the National Rehabilitation Association of Job Placement & Development (NRAJPD), as well as Past-President of Kentucky Job Placement & Development (KJPD), a division of the Kentucky Rehabilitation Association (KRA).
Tell us about your involvement at the state/regional/division/national levels.
I am the current NRA Secretary, and as previously stated, serve as Treasurer to NRAJPD and Past-President of KJPD. I've also been a member of the KRA Board and KRA Conference Planning Committee since 2016. With each year that passes since joining NRA, my involvement has become more and more actively engaged at all levels: from being an officer to a board member, serving on numerous committees, heading a strategic planning group, coordinating events/trainings, etc. I attended my first NRA Annual Training Conference in Richmond, VA and made instant connections with other members from all across the country. I attended my first NRA Government Affairs Summit the following year and made my initial advocacy visits on Capitol Hill. My next NRA Annual Training Conference in Corpus Christi was an amazing experience, since I had been appointed NRA Secretary earlier that summer and was the NRAJPD Lou Ortale Lecturer.
I have spoken on a variety of topics at 9 different NRA State Chapters' conferences, including 2 Regional and 2 National, with more to come! Whether Keynote or concurrent, I absolutely love visiting and celebrating with our State Chapters while bringing ethics back and more! It's also allowed me to work on checking off my bucket list of visiting all 8 Comprehensive Vocational Training Centers left in the country. Hot Springs and Plainwell are next! I've never met a stranger, so feel free to say hello if you see me out and about at this year's NRA Disability Employment Summit (March 31st-April 2nd) or your State Chapter's conference! We've got a lot of great things planned in Kentucky this year and are looking forward to another successful KJPD Pre-Conference to KRA's Annual Training Conference! We'd love to see NRA back in the Bluegrass again, but are very excited to host the South East Region of NRA (SERNRA) in 2020!
What was your path into the field of rehabilitation? Please tell us about your education, any “ah ha” moments and other influence.
Before coming to OVR, I was a university disability services coordinator, psychology professor, and worked with non-profit community rehabilitation programs that provided a variety of services, including supported employment and direct job placement, to a broad range of individuals with disabilities. I have several years of business management experience across different industries and am also a Kentucky APSE member. I obtained an AA in Liberal Studies and a BA in Psychology with a Human Service Concentration from Kentucky State University, as well as my Master of Rehabilitation Counseling (MRC) from the University of Kentucky. I received my CRC in the fall of 2012 and am also LPCA qualified.
I have always had a great heart for individuals with disabilities and grew up with exposure to various disability populations throughout my entire life, whether it be personally or professionally. My father worked for a "sheltered workshop" when I was younger, so I had a particular penchant for working with individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities. I didn't know what the rehabilitation counseling profession was until I was recruited as an undergrad for the MRC program at the University of Kentucky. I started taking my graduate courses while I was still completing my BA at Kentucky State University under the advisement of my mentor, Dr. Tierra Freeman. I took the extra courses necessary to get my LPCA, if I wanted to work towards my LPCC, and I sat for the CRC exam passing with flying colors. After graduation, I started teaching psychology at my Alma Mater and became their Disability Services Coordinator. I had done some of my MRC fieldwork as a counselor in the Disability Resource Center there and was recommended by my predecessor for his position when he left. If only I had known that I would eventually find myself working for the state VR agency! I guess I should have taken that RSA Long-Term Training Grant for my MRC, but of course I had other plans. It's funny how things work out!
What accomplishment are you most proud of (professional or personal)?
Professionally, I'm most proud of obtaining my MRC/CRC and growing within my profession, especially providing training and being able to help grow and inspire others within the field through professional and personal development. I conducted my first webinar for our job placement staff statewide in 2017 and co-presented my first national webinar in 2018.
Personally, I'm most proud of creating another life and in it part of my legacy. It is by far the hardest thing I've ever done. He never ceases to amaze me as I watch him develop and grow into the person he will become! I only hope I make him as proud through my labors of love!
Why did you join NRA and what impact has membership had on your career?
I had always ignored the calls from my MRC faculty about how vital it was to join our professional organizations, whether it was a matter of money or not realizing their importance at the time. Too often the choice between going out for the weekend and paying membership dues wouldn't be up for much discussion, since we aren't necessarily in tune with the real value of the choice we're making then. I think many college students don't always grasp the concept of the invested relationships, networking, comradery, advocacy, continuing education, and other crucial things that professional organizations like the NRA provide us. Some of the best people I know, I've met through my professional membership with NRA and NRAJPD!
I was approached by my colleague and fellow Employment Specialist, Amber Barnes, about joining NRA and NRAJPD almost as soon as I started working at OVR. It was no longer a hard choice to make, so I went ahead and jumped right on board. I immediately filled out the required paperwork and payroll deductions to make it happen. I attended my first KJPD Pre-Conference, KRA Annual Training Conference, and KJPD Annual Business Meeting later that year. Many of my colleagues served in different capacities, so it was of interest to me how I may be able to contribute as well. Little did I know that the next year I would be President-Elect of KJPD and coordinating my first pre-conference, as well as presenting our division's concurrent session at KRA. I've now coordinated 3 KJPD and 2 NRAJPD successful Pre-Conferences. By joining NRA and NRAJPD, as well as taking on substantial roles and being so actively involved, it has done nothing but impact my career in a positive way and grown my resume, skills, and experiences. I highly suggest it for anyone that is looking to advance themselves both personally and professionally, as well as being a part of something larger than ourselves. As I also always say, "Go Team NRA!"
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about a career in rehabilitation?
My advice would be to research the different education programs, credentials, and career paths that are available within the vocational rehabilitation field. So many times people may be drawn to working with one particular population or area of interest, but find that it may not be what they are truly passionate about. I say to you: "Follow your passion, and you will find your place!" We all have a place in the world, and we have the honor and privilege of helping others find it. So, why not discover yours too?
This is one of the most satisfying careers you could ever pursue. Although it may not make you rich, it will make you wealthy in so many other ways. The impact you have is not just on the life of that one individual with a disability, but their friends, family, co-workers, employers, communities, and beyond. If you ever feel burnt out just give me a call, or send me an e-mail, and I will gladly remind you just how important you are and the work that you do! Keep shining your light, as we are beacons of hope to all of those that we so proudly serve!
Your biggest fan and constant cheerleader,
Christa A. Martin, MRC/CRC