“I remember the first day I started Southwest Center for Higher Independence (SCHI), I was really nervous and shy, but we all know that didn’t last long,” 23-year-old student Tara Davis laughed, immediately showing the lively personality that has helped her overcome many hurdles in her life.
SCHI is a program at Methodist Mission Home (MMH) that teaches young adults with disabilities the life skills and vocational training to live a more independent life. More than a year after her first day at SCHI, Tara is known as the girl with the infectious personality with a great ability to provide conversation and laughs any time of the day.
Blessed with a constantly optimistic outlook on life since birth, she grew up in Irving, Texas, with Borderline Intellectual Functioning (BIF), a cognitive learning disability that limits abstract thought. In middle school Tara found herself having to deal with bullies but despite these and other difficulties, she always managed to see the bright side and kept involved in as many activities as possible. For her, golf was a savior and she excelled, staying very competitive during her high school years.
After graduating high school, Tara managed to get a job but realized she lacked a good understanding about how to live on her own. One Sunday in 2011, a Methodist Mission Home (MMH) representative gave a presentation on the MMH programs at Plymouth Park United Methodist Church, where Tara and her family learned about its SCHI program.
“She talked about how SCHI helped young adults like myself learn how to live independently and I was like, ‘Hey, I feel like I need help with that, so I’m going to look into this,’” Tara said, explaining what had initially encouraged her to move from Irving.
Soon after a visit to San Antonio and a meeting with SCHI Admissions Director Teri Gutierrez, Tara found herself accepted into the program.
“I got home one day and my mom had this huge smile on her face,” she related. “She said she had good news, that I had been accepted. The next thing I knew I was on my way down to San Antonio.”
Motivated since she began the program, Tara has learned new skills and strengthened skills she had in her desire to live a more independent life.
“Mrs. Wanda’s class taught me how to balance a checkbook, even though those will probably be extinct soon,” she said enthusiastically. “And I also know how to manage a budget and pay my own bills. This will be great when I get my own apartment.”
A high interest in cooking attracted her immediately to SCHI’s culinary training program and she has completed the program provided on the MMH campus in partnership with the San Antonio Food Bank. Once she graduates from SCHI, she plans to work in the food industry.
“I’ve always had a passion for cooking and my goal is to get a job in the food industry eventually,” she said in an excited tone.
She has also learned skills needed to look for a job and be hired, how to develop a resume and cover letter, and the do’s and don’ts for interviews, skills she learned in Mr. Jim’s class.
“Now, every time I go to an interview, I always get compliments on my interviewing skills,” Tara said. “The managers want to know where I learned them.”
It’s clear she has lots of potential and a deep desire to achieve. With her SCHI graduation coming into focus, Tara has big plans of one day opening her own restaurant.
“When I do, it’s going to be because of all the help and training SCHI has given me. Everyone taught me never to give up and always believe in myself – and I plan to do exactly that when I leave,” Tara promised, with a look of determination flickering over her always vivacious face.