From the President’s Desk

President Laura Vitzthum
The seasons are changing but many of the hardships and health concerns related to COVID-19 remain. We sent out a special Spotlight to let MRA members know that we are not going to be hosting an in-person conference this fall. The conference planning committee is continuing to work on creating affordable online trainings for 2020 that will help our members continue to learn.

I am pleased to see that many essential workers in the job placement and job coaching fields have returned to work. As a counselor who is currently working from home due to COVID-19, I want to send out a special thank you to JPD members who are meeting job seekers in the field. I do not take it for granted that your skills are integral to helping people with disabilities obtain and maintain jobs in the community. I know of multiple job seekers with intellectual disabilities who were unable to obtain work when in-person job coaching services were on-hold due to the need of having a job coach present to help learn new work tasks. I believe that JPD members are as integral to the economy and our society as any essential worker. In fact, many of the job placement specialists and job coaches have helped to fill open positions within the medical and high-demand retail fields.

I am reassured that many MASPPR members have seen their business pick up recently. Many MASPPR members are reporting that they are not back to full capacity, but it is encouraging to see many of you back in the field advocating for your clients. The MRA conference committee is keeping in mind the importance of offering CEUs for online trainings since many of our MASPPR members rely on MRA to help them meet their CEU needs.

I am continually impressed by all the energy and creativity put forth by our Transition Division. Many high school students have been reluctant to engage in additional online activities related to career exploration after they have completed their online schooling, so it has taken a lot of ingenuity on the part of our Transition Division to keep them engaged. MRA’s goal is to offer at least one transition-related training in 2020.

I wanted to commend MRA grad students who have been balancing the transition to online learning. You are pioneering new ways to learn online and apply virtual counseling techniques that I believe can be effectively carried into the future. I have been greatly enjoying the opportunity that St. Cloud State has provided to the rehabilitation community with the free online Ability Event. I have been unable to attend in years past since I do not live near St. Cloud so this year’s virtual training has been a special privilege. The fact that you are offering free CEUs is a bonus that I have encouraged many MRA members to act upon.

MRA members within the ARTS Division have been the underpinning in keeping the rehabilitation community afloat. In our office, it has been the support staff who have gone into the office to check mail and help with bill paying and other essentials that are necessary for the profession of rehabilitation services to continue. I do not take the risks of the COVID-19 pandemic lightly so any professional who is leaving their home with the mission of helping people with disabilities is someone to be commended and appreciated.

To all the members of MRA who I have not included in the above mentions and to the entire MRA membership, stand strong. We are a community. As a collective, we can help support one another when one division may be experiencing more troubles. For members of MRA who can vote, I encourage you to exercise this right not only for yourself but for those who you care about and work with daily. I think it is an important consideration when thinking about which candidates to vote for that you consider MRA’s mission of working together to eliminate barriers and increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities. This year is the 30th anniversary of the ADA and the 100-year anniversary of the state-federal vocational rehabilitation program and women’s right to vote in the U.S. It is important to reflect on the significant milestones that we have accomplished as a country so that we work towards an even better tomorrow.

Self-Care Tips for Working from Home during the Pandemic

Micah Olson, Vice President & Membership Chair

  1. Make sure to follow a routine everyday, get up and get dressed, even if there are no meetings on the schedule.
  2. Take Breaks and go outside.
  3. Listen to relaxing music when feeling stressed really works.
  4. Make sure your zoom backdrop is professional and you are muted if you are going to say something about the presenter or speaker.
  5. Use jokes and humor liberally to keep yourself in a good mood.
  6. Remind yourself why you do your job in the first place, it is to help people regardless of your venue!
  7. Zoom or talk with a good friend, work or otherwise, at least once a day.

Overall, I have learned to work from home efficiently, even if there are more distractions than there would be at the office. I have embraced learning new technology and never thought I would enjoy video meetings as much as I do. That being said, I know face to face is the best way to communicate for a lot of the persons we work with and I am looking forward to being flexible in the future. Onward and upward and embrace the day, wherever you may be!


Name: Kim Coleman

Role in MRA: Communications Committee Member

Professional Role: Job Placement Coordinator for Tasks Unlimited

Why I Chose This Career Path: I am interested in contributing to efforts on diversity in all aspects for persons with disabilities, and I wish to lend my experiences and connections within various venues to better the lives of individuals with disabilities. 

One Thing Others Don’t Know About Me: I am a longtime advocate and community organizer for diverse communities and volunteer with community businesses to build viable partnerships to strengthen communities and enhance pathways to self-sufficiency.

How MRA Involvement Has Contributed to Your Professional Growth: I recently joined MRA and am excited about how my membership can elevate my efforts to serve communities that need diverse representation.

Each Month there will be a featured MRA Member in this section, starting with the Board of Directors, but we will always take nominations and volunteers for whom to spotlight. Please send these to and you will receive a questionnaire to complete and return. The purpose is to get to know each other and to highlight reasons why membership in our professional organization is important.


Job Placement & Development

The Job Placement and Development Division asks you to submit nominations for:

Employer of the Year – Large Metro, Small Metro, Large Non-Metro, Small Non-Metro
Placement Person of the Year – For Notable and Continuing Achievements in Effective Placement of Persons with Disabilities
The Lori Sterner Award – For Contributions to the Field of Job Placement and the Advancement of Employment of Persons with Disabilities

Nomination forms can be downloaded by clicking on the links above. Please submit nominations to JPD President Doris Illies at JPD will host a virtual award ceremony on Thursday, October 22. Watch for further details.

Doris Illies MN JPD President 2020

Transition Specialties Division

TSD has decided to give out awards for the first time! There will be two awards: Transition Professional of the Year and Community Transition Provider of the Year.

Transition Professional of the Year is for an individual counselor or provider that works with transition-age youth and must be a member of TSD in order to be considered.

Community Transition Provider of the Year is for an agency (or individual in an agency) that has done exceptional work when it comes to working with transition-age youth or providing Pre-ETS; they do not have to be a TSD member.

Nominations are due on September 21st at 5pm. All completed nomination forms can be submitted to The nomination form is here:
In the last Spotlight, TSD announced that we were planning a training with Denise Bissonnette for Summer/Fall 2020. We have decided to postpone this training until next year when we can do it in-person. Thank you for understanding.
The next TSD board meeting will be Monday, October 12th, 1pm – 2:30pm via Zoom. Contact TSD President Alex Breiland if you’d like the Zoom URL to attend:

TSD is giving away FREE t-shirts to new and current TSD members in 2020!  To get your free t-shirt, all you have to do is join or be a current member of TSD and attend one of our board meetings in 2020! We are also selling the t-shirts for $20.

The t-shirts are black and the front has a grey outline of Minnesota with the words “transition,” “passion,” “future,” “empowerment,” “job,” “new life,” “goals,” “motivation,” “creative,” “development,” “change,” and “career” in white along the outline. The back of the t-shirt says “MRA Transition Division” in white.

If you would like to order a t-shirt you can contact us at


As you saw in a recent special Spotlight, we made the difficult decision to postpone our Fall Conference, originally scheduled for October 21 -23 at Ruttgers Bay Lake Lodge in beautiful Deerwood, MN.

Thanks to Ruttgers for working with us to reschedule the Conference for September 29 – October 1, 2021. We look forward to a great event! Watch for more information closer to the Conference dates.

But it wouldn’t be Fall without some MRA training opportunities! We are happy to announce we will be presenting 5 separate hour-long trainings on the 5 Pre-ETS categories, Monday 10/19/20 – Friday 10/23/20, and these trainings are 100% FREE to MN residents. Stay tuned for more info on the sessions and how to register.

If you would like more information, please feel free to contact the committee at


October 8, 2020
JPD Board Meeting
1o:00AM – 12:00PM via Zoom
Contact JPD President Doris Illies if you’d like the Zoom URL to attend:

October 12, 2020
TSD Board Meeting
1:00PM – 2:30PM via Zoom
Contact TSD President Alex Breiland if you’d like the Zoom URL to attend:

October 19 – October 23
1:00PM – 2:00PM
Pre-ETS Training via Zoom
Each day will cover a different Pre-ETS service category, and all 5 days are 100% FREE for MN Residents. Watch for more info soon.

November 12, 2020
MRA Board Meeting
Executive Board 9:00AM-10:00AM
All welcome 10:00AM-12:00PM
This will be a Zoom event, so please email MRA President, Laura Vitzthum, for how to attend:

September 29 – October 1, 2021
MRA Annual Conference:
Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge
Deerwood, MN
More details soon…


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