51 - Eugene, OR
"I remember my own personal turning point, the moment I understood I have the power to participate, contribute and have a meaningful life. NextStep provides the technology people need to experience their own turning points, giving them access to increased education and employment opportunities – creating communities where we all can find our brilliance."
Lorraine was labeled a special ed kid, which resulted in her never believing she had any intelligence, that she could ever "be" anything-or even that she could compete on an equal footing with other people. Over her life she's been homeless and has been given many mental health and intelligence "labels".
After 25 years of working class jobs, Lorraine was injured in a car accident and forced to retrain. Her family urged her to try college, but she resisted when she learned students had to use computers. The computer was a symbol of "what smart people" use-and this was a barrier to her understanding that she could be successful in school. During this time, Lorraine was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. A "label" that made more sense. Before the diagnosis, "I spent years thinking I was stupid and inferior. When I was diagnosed autistic and learned how I process information, I discovered my intelligence and capabilities".
Lorraine applied her own experience to others and discovered that for people who fall on the autism spectrum, the computer was very friendly and a great communication tool. While working as a Social Service Specialist in the Oregon Department of Child Welfare, Lorraine met children who had similar life experiences. She understood that access to technology could level the educational playing field for them. Technology ended up being the tool she needed to make life easier for other children than it was for her growing up.
Lorraine turned a small, garage-based nonprofit into an internationally recognized organization that has provided over 10,000 people with job and social skills training, refurbished over 30,000 computers and recycled over 12,000,000 pounds of electronic waste. That's why Lorraine is a 2012 Woman of Worth!