Chakeeta Thomas grew up in north St. Louis County.  She loved to learn new things, however she recognized early on that learning was a challenge.  She struggled at home, sharing a small space with her grandmother and two brothers. In spite of her obstacles, Chakeeta made it a goal to live independently. Through hard work and fierce determination, and with the help of teachers, her caseworker and staff from St. Louis Arc – Chakeeta has achieved more than she ever dreamed possible.

Chakeeta’s involvement with the St. Louis Arc began when her caseworker reached out to Beth Moeller, Director of Community Living and the Arc’s CONNECT program. CONNECT empowers people to lead independent lives by using individualized and community supports. The Arc helps young people transition to their next step in life by building networks within their community while also expanding their life skills. As part of the CONNECT program, Beth was supporting another young woman with the same goals as Chakeeta. The two made a connection and became roommates.

After completing the St. Louis County Summer Work Experience Program (SWEP), Chakeeta began exploring employment opportunities with the St. Louis Arc Supported Employment team. Partnering with the Arc’s staff to explore next steps on her pathway to success, Chakeeta found a job with the DoubleTree Hotel St. Louis – Chesterfield. Her commitment to success ensured that Chakeeta found more than a job at Double Tree, she found a career.  In addition to benefits, flexible hours, and friendly co-workers, Chakeeta had the opportunity to advance within the company. Her love of learning allowed her to become a certified trainer. Supported by her job coach, Chakeeta studied and passed her certification test. In March 2018, DoubleTree named Chakeeta Associate of the Month.

And Chakeeta’s story doesn’t end there. After 4 years of living together, Chakeeta and her roommate decided to find their own places. The stars aligned once again and through her work with Beth Moeller, she found a house for rent in Chesterfield…directly across the street from DoubleTree.

Chakeeta is quick to tell us that she couldn’t be happier. “Since I’ve moved out,” Chakeeta shared, “I’ve learned how to pay the bills and stay organized. The Arc supports me in grocery shopping and going to doctor appointments. I’m very happy that they do hands-on training including learning how to get to the doctors and making the appointments. They’ve also helped me with job coaching and employment skills.”

Additionally, through the CONNECT program, Chakeeta has attended Meetup events to meet new people. “I love hanging with my friends, going to the movies, and enjoying life to the fullest.” Chakeeta truly is living her best life. She’s excelling at her job, living independently, and building her social network.