“We try to have a lot of fun when we can, and everyone’s really supportive. Greater Opportunities is unlike any other place I’ve worked. I’ve never laughed so much at a job!”
This was the first thing that came to mind for Aunna Mazzanti when she was asked to describe her work as the Assistant Coordinator of Independent Living Services at Greater Opportunities. A bright and friendly young woman, Aunna started working with Greater Opportunities in October 2014 after relocating to Silicon Valley from Sonoma County. She left her job as a paralegal in Sonoma County knowing that she wanted to make a change. Having been personally touched by her cousin’s experience with Down Syndrome, Aunna knew she wanted to work with people with developmental disabilities.
Aunna loves the work she does at Greater Opportunities, even though it hasn’t always been easy, and she says she’s learned so much from working with such a diverse community. “We have a consumer who had a hard time understanding that I wasn’t his one-to-one staff, and it was really hard to be going in circles with him and not getting him to understand. I had to learn how to be patient and figure out different ways to say things. I didn’t want him to leave GO; I really wanted to resolve things. Now, months later, he’s great in class, he’s totally changed.”
At the Cortez Apartments, Aunna teaches the anger management and human sexuality class, “The class is great because everyone opens up about their personal experiences and shares tools and strategies for coping with their emotions. I like helping people identify their triggers and then teaching skills about how to handle them.” She is a friendly, hands on teacher with a keen ability to identify and anticipate clients’ needs. In class, she is passionate about helping people grow and change; it’s exciting for her.
Aunna also works one-on-one with clients in their homes at the Cortez Apartments, “I help with household chores, make sure clients get their medication, and make sure they go to doctors appointments. I’m there to help them with whatever they need or want. We also work with clients to set goals, it’s a very goal driven program.” Aunna sees her role at the Cortez Apartments as more than a teacher or a coach, she says she is a friend to all the clients and takes time to make a special connection with each one of them. It’s like she is everyone’s big sister; she loves to see their individual personalities shine when everyone is hanging out and telling jokes.
Aunna says she loves her job because she gets to make a difference in people’s lives, “It’s a unique job where you know you’re doing something important. It’s challenging, but it’s wonderful.” Aunna says all of the staff encourage and support each other she feels lucky to have a great support system at the office. She says they try to have fun while they work together and learn from each other about how to best meet their clients’ needs. “It’s a fun challenge to work with many different clients at different levels and integrate everyone so that we all learn from each other. Everybody is different and I want people to be successful and happy, especially at the Cortez Apartments!”