Mindy Sherman’s goal is to make a path for others, driven by her conviction that she “doesn’t want to see people suffer—ever.”
A special education teacher in Broward for 30 years, the Coconut Creek resident realized that her former students were having trouble finding jobs. But Sherman asked herself, “What am I doing if I’m not preparing them for life after high school?” To assist their efforts, she joined in the development of a program called Career Placement for Broward County Schools; the initiative focuses on students ages 18 to 22 with special needs—and helps them to find employment.
Years later, Sherman found that the passion she had for helping students also could be used to assist adults with mental health issues who were looking for employment. Today, she is a founding partner and president of Pathways 2 Work, based in Coconut Creek, which assists clients with a staff that includes fellow founding partners Bobby Sherman (her husband) and Raymond Di Iulio, as well as a mental health counselor, a psychiatrist and a vocational evaluator. In less than two years, the nonprofit organization has helped upward of 600 people with a variety of life circumstances. For 300 of those individuals, Pathways 2 Work has partnered with Florida Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), a federal-state program that offers resources and support for those with mental and physical disabilities looking for work. Sherman and her team have either received referrals from VR or guided clients through the program with specialized services.
One of those clients is Nilmary Soriano, a Margate resident who works as an office administrator at a real estate company.
“They were extremely welcoming and they were very friendly. … So it really helped you feel like they really want to help,” Soriano says. “They’re really interested in you as a person.”
Like she did as a teacher, Sherman makes sure to follow up with those she helps. When clients find work, Pathways 2 Work offers Living Well, a quarterly series on subjects such as financial literacy. There’s also the new Connections program, a group that encompasses “ambassadors” as well as Pathways 2 Work alumni such as Soriano, who is looking forward to connecting with the group (after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted).
In the future, Sherman hopes to build on her teaching skills to offer self-advocacy training and work readiness training for youth with mental health needs. She also plans to grow the Connections program after the pandemic, starting with a fitness event scheduled for Feb. 20.
“My passion comes from wanting to help people and not wanting to see people suffer,” she says, “especially folks that have less than we have.”
Pathways 2 Work is seeking volunteer ambassadors, donations of interview clothes and transportation assistance, and companies to partner for on-the-job training programs. Visit pathways2work.org.