25-year-old Jack Murphy is proving competitive and satisfying employment for individuals with Down syndrome is possible with hard work and dedication.
Jack recently received a promotion to manager at Cactus Grill in Kansas City, Missouri.
His level of success is still uncommon in the Down syndrome community. With a 70% unemployment rate, many individuals with Down syndrome are lucky to even have a job and most are not working full time or in a high-valued position.
So how did Jack beat the odds?
“I have loyalty to the customers and staff at Cactus Grill. I’ve worked there for over 9 years, it’s a huge part of my life, and my job makes me hold my head high,” Jack Murphy says.
His mom, Bridgett, says Jack faces the same challenges as other individuals with Down syndrome, but the focus in their family has always been on hard work and shared responsibility.
At 2-years-old his parents created a vision statement for Jack with 3 specific goals:
By adulthood, Jack would live away from home.
Jack would have a satisfying job.
Jack would have a satisfying social life.
“Everything we do will be moving him towards those 3 goals. Whether we did full-inclusion in school, or some variation of it. Sometimes a general education classroom was important for the development of appropriate social or behavior skills. Any time we met with his IEP team we reviewed our vision statement, and asked if he had moved towards his goals,” Bridgett explains.
Jack was setting the family table by 4-years-old and always had responsibilities at home.
“We all work. Our family works. As Jack grew older we were always asking our kids ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ Bridgett says.
At 16, Jack told his mom he wanted a job at their favorite local restaurant, Cactus Grill. “I made her drive me to the restaurant to apply,” Jack describes.
“One piece of advice I have for parents and young adults with Down syndrome is to make yourself known at the places you frequent. Introduce yourself and your child. Jack got the job at Cactus Grill, in part, because they already knew him. It’s always about who you know,” explains Bridgett.
Jack started as a hostess in high school, but after graduation left for college at both the University of Iowa and the University of Arkansas. “The University of Arkansas program had an internship in the third year. I had to make a decision in my heart. Should I stay and complete the internship, or come back and take a permanent job with Cactus Grill,” Jack explains.
He decided to come home, and Cactus Grill’s new general manager realized Jack’s loyalty and work ethic was unmatched, and decided to give him a promotion to hostess manager.
“I met Jack 8 years ago while serving at a sister restaurant where Jack was a hostess. We went out to the movies together and I really got to know him. He’s a really moving guy; such a hard worker. I don’t think he was always given the opportunities he deserves. When I came back on as general manager I realized everyone loves Jack. Quite a few people come in just to see him,” Cactus Grill General Manager Paul states.
Bridgett says her son was especially moved after an inspiring breakout session at the National Down Syndrome Congress Convention by Tim of Tim’s Place. “Tim talked about what it takes to run a successful business, and Jack suddenly realized he deserved the same success as Tim. He went from being just an employee to a committed member of Cactus Grill,” Bridgett describes.
“I love the new position. My responsibilities are running the hostess stand. I talk about the line up. And deal with the customers,” Jack explains.
Paul says more employers should hire people with Down syndrome. “My friends and I often talk about why other restaurants haven’t brought on employees like Jack and Carolyn (another Cactus Grill employee with Down syndrome). They do everything by the book and give 100%. I’m amazed at what great workers they are,” Paul describes.
As Jack starts his new chapter at Cactus Grill he has some advice for others that want to follow in his footsteps:
“My advice is to be honest about yourself. Show them what you got. Go in there and apply for the job. It’s my confidence and loyalty, love and passion that got me here,” Jack exclaims.