Employee Spotlight: Joshua Ward

Joshua Ward was hired as a Direct Support Professional and Residential Instructor at the Berryville campus in February 2022. He says that being employed at Grafton has helped him discover his passion for working with vulnerable youth. Read our interview to learn more about Joshua and what he loves most about working with Grafton clients.

Joshua and his father.

What made you want to work with clients who have special needs?

Actually, that wasn’t why I originally came to Grafton—when I was 19, I started working in the kitchen at the Berryville campus. I needed a job, and a family friend recommended Grafton to me. I worked in the kitchen there for a year and nine months. In that time, I built relationships with the clients and staff.

When I turned 21, some staff members encouraged me to apply to work as a Direct Support Professional (DSP), and I did. Before that, I’d never really felt passionate about any certain career or calling, but when I began interacting with the clients—having therapy sessions, playing basketball with them, etc.—it really clicked. It felt right. Now I know that no matter where I go in life, I always want to be working with disadvantaged youth.

Do you feel like the training you received at Grafton has been useful?

I think the key to success in any industry is to have the right mentor. Here at Grafton, I have really great mentors who motivate me to do my best. Really, all the staff members I’ve worked with have been willing to help and provide the training I need. We all want each other to succeed.

What’s a typical day as a DSP like?

When I arrive, I first focus on the environment. I want to make sure the dorm is clean and that it feels like home for the clients. Once that’s done, I plan out the day to ensure all clients have family engagement, a therapeutic session, and time for both hygiene and exercise. I always make sure I have plenty of activities planned—I work with about eight kids each day, and it’s important for them to always have interaction or something to do. I never want them to be static.

What’s your favorite thing about working at Grafton?

I love working with the kids. This job really gives me a sense of purpose. I wake up each day and tackle real problems, and that motivates me to do my best work. I also really like the staff I work with. Like with most jobs, the people you work with make a big difference.

Do you have a favorite story from your time at Grafton?

Shortly after starting my current job, I worked with a client who presented a lot of challenges. This client was really hurting. I spent countless hours working directly with him, one-on-one, and it took a good deal of trial and error to figure out how to help him. Eventually, I began to see progress, and that was really rewarding. Our perseverance really paid off. Moments like that make me realize I’m in the right place.

What would you tell someone who is thinking of working at Grafton?

I’d tell them that the human brain is one of the most complicated things in the world, and to work in this field, you really have to be at the top of your game. We’re at a new horizon of mental health treatment and trauma-informed care, and not every day is easy. In the end, the work will change you in some amazing ways.

What would you tell a parent who is considering sending their child to Grafton?

I’d tell them Grafton is a great place. Clients here have a home-like environment with the safety precautions that are necessary for everyone’s wellbeing. It’s a very loving place. I’d also be sure to emphasize that supportive families, especially supportive parents and guardians, can make all the difference for our clients. The employees at Grafton work every day to build a safe and comforting environment for our clients, and that bridges directly to the families to strengthen their family unity.