USOR 100 – Spotlight on Employee Excellence: Denise Tohsonii

Denise Tohsonii has worked for the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation (USOR) for 15 years in her role as an office specialist in our Blanding, Ut. office. Denise plays a critical role in supporting Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Counselors, clients and community partners by providing exceptional customer service, help with service coordination and clerical assistance. Denise deeply cares for those she works with and her genuine level of care is apparent by the way she interacts with anyone who comes into a USOR office.

What brought you into the profession? 

I had been a stay-at-home mom for years running my own daycare out of my home. When my youngest started school. I thought it was time to re-enter the workforce. I knew how to type and do clerical tasks, so I applied for the office specialist position in 2005 with USOR. I thought it was just a job to get me by, however, it became much more than that. 

Where do you get the inspiration to help your clients in VR?

I watch clients come to the office and apply for services. Some are so unsure of their abilities and where their place is in this world. I watch them bloom with confidence and the security of knowing they can have a great education and awesome jobs. Just seeing the difference in how they are before and then seeing them after believing in themselves and knowing they have the tools to succeed is an amazing transformation and very inspiring.

What is your fondest memory during your time with VR?

I remember a young lady coming into the office beaten down by life. She wouldn’t look me in the eye and wouldn’t make conversation when in our waiting room. I tried making small talk, it was a no go for her. I could tell by her body language she didn’t really want to be there. She shared that she hated asking for help and it should only be used for people who really needed it. I explained we were here to give a helping hand and the tools for anyone who needed it at that time in their lives with no judgement or shame. I watched her for more than two years as she worked toward her degree.

With each month and semester, she began to change. She smiled more, made eye contact and would have little conversations with me while waiting on her counselor. I learned about her kids and baby steps to success. The best part was when she came in after graduating and getting a job. She was beaming and walking on air. She had tears when she expressed her gratitude for VR helping her with education and restoration. I told her I’m just the OS; I push the paper and answer the phones. It’s the counselor who helped you. She said, “Oh no Denise, it was the little things you said and would do for me when I needed it most.” That was the best! I grew a little that day as well, realizing my own worth and value.

What do you enjoy most about VR?

I enjoy my coworkers and the sense of family I have with them. Knowing that we can count on each other if it’s just for a laugh, cup of coffee or to talk to each other after a rough day. That overflows to our clients as well. I’ve had clients say to me, “I’d love to work here, y'all seem to have fun.”

Why do you think VR is important?

We make a difference in people’s lives. We give our clients support and assistance to succeed in their educational goals and/or employment goals. VR lets them know they have an advocate and opens possibilities for them. There are times we are the bridge between our clients and the community or an employer. Maybe we just stand next to them, and they know they have someone in their corner looking out for their best interest.

To learn more about USOR's VR program and for more information on available programs click here.