Andrew Biggar crashed his car on the night of December 4, 2004. A spinal cord injury resulted in paraplegia and since then Andrew has used a wheelchair to get around his hometown of St. Cloud.
Although he was fairly mobile, he wasn't having much luck finding a career in St. Cloud. He picked up a job here and there—working the front desk at a small, locally owned motel, the occasional odd job—but nothing very inspiring.
"I wasn't really doing much.," he says. "I wasn't finding a whole lot. So I started thinking about maybe looking for some education, maybe getting a career and moving ahead."
In the summer of 2008 Andrew got a referral to Vocational Rehabilitation Services and began working with Jill Grand, a VR counselor in St. Cloud. He'd always been interested in computers and technology, and believed he had the knack for something in information technology.
That interest and that belief led Andrew and Jill to develop a plan that would provide training and assistance to attend school at St. Cloud Technical College. The training took a couple of years to complete, during which time Andrew fine-tuned his computer skills and started thinking seriously about a career as a computer support technician.
Cindy Belmont, a VR placement coordinator, began working with Andrew to develop an IT internship at WACOSA, a community rehabilitation program in St. Cloud. The internship led to part-time employment, which was a step in the right direction. But Andrew continued to seek a full-time career, something more inspiring and with more long-term potential.
He was eager to look for work beyond the St. Cloud area, but his career search was hindered a bit because, since his 2004 car accident, he didn't drive and no longer had a vehicle.
Andrew and Cindy determined that a modified van would allow him to expand the area of his job search to include the Twin Cities area and beyond. John Bredehoft, the assistive technology specialist for VRS, arranged to modify a van for Andrew's use, and Andrew received driving instructions at Courage Center where he learned to handle his new vehicle.
Prepared and equipped, Andrew set about looking for work in the metro area.
Just over a year ago, with Cindy's continued assistance, Andrew found his job at Isilon Systems, a computer storage company in Plymouth. He works full time in the technical support area, earning well more than $20 an hour and receiving a full benefits package.
It's a bit of a commute between St. Cloud and Plymouth, but Andrew says he doesn't mind it at all. The job fits him perfectly, and he believes there is a big potential for future career advancement. Isilon Systems was recently purchased by EMC, a very large global data storage company.
"Everybody I worked with was great. Jill was great to work with and John Bredehoft was extremely helpful," says Andrew. "The whole process was pretty easy, pretty straightforward. It was a really good experience. So anything I can do in return, I'm happy to do it."
Andrew Biggar received services at the St. Cloud office.