Meet Rick Christensen, CES's Program Director
We are so excited to welcome Rick Christensen to CES! We thought we would take some time to introduce him by asking him some questions that will help give an insight into who he is. Thanks Rick!
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
"I have been around for a looooong time! I was born and raised in Midvale, UT, but I have strong ties to Western Wyoming. My family has been involved in Alpine and Jackson for over 60 years. I always wanted to live in this area and 23 years ago my wife and I relocated our family to Star Valley. Growing up, I wanted to be an astronaut, but that didn’t work out. After graduating high school, I discovered that college wasn’t for me and I went into business. I ran a multi line rep firm for over 20 years, and then in 2008, one of the main companies that I represented failed and I was jobless for the first time in my life. It was then that I was offered a position as a paraprofessional in the Lincoln County School District special education department.
One day, I realized that I wanted to teach because I loved working with exceptional students. I returned to college and obtained a B.S. In Special Education K-12 and Elementary education. In 2020 there was not a suitable opening in Star Valley so I accepted a teaching position at Teton Middle School in Driggs. After teaching there for three years, I decided that being away from my wife and house on weekdays was no longer sustainable. I wanted a new adventure and CES and I found each other! I feel that this position is a perfect fit for me with my prior business and education experience.
On a more personal note, I have been married to my wife Tawny for 42 years, she is a Special Education Teacher at Star Valley High School. Together we have two amazing kids Caitlin and Colter. Caitlin, and my son in-law Travis, live in Brookings, SD where she is employed at South Dakota State University as a Campus Wellbeing Specialist, and Travis works for a company that services wind farms. Colter and my daughter in-law Nicole live in Leadville, CO where he works for Colorado Mountain College as the Upward Bound coordinator, and Nicole is an E.R.,Trauma, and Flight Nurse at the local hospital. Tawny and I have been adopted by two rescue mutts Schooner and Ginger. When I am not at CES you can find me outdoors either here or near the ocean."
What inspired you to get involved with Community Entry Services?
"I have a strong desire to assist people in achieving their best lives, and help them identify and achieve their goals and I think that this desire aligns with CES’s Mission Statement. Community Entry Services is the best in this field and I want to be a part of that."
What do you find most rewarding about working with adults with disabilities?
"Supporting them in achieving what they want to achieve. For example, we have two clients that I have known since they were little kids and seeing them now has proven to me that what we do has a positive impact on our clients lives."
What are you most looking forward to about being the new program director?
"I look forward to supporting our amazing clients and staff on a daily basis. Covid changed the world for everyone, especially our clients. I hope to be able to resume some of our pre-Covid activities for them. As director, I want to showcase CES as the premier provider and employer to potential clients and staff."
Are there any changes you hope to see and contribute to during your time here as the Program Director?
"My primary focus is to look for ways to improve my clients' experiences. I would also like to create a climate of growth for our current and future staff to give them opportunities to achieve their personal goals. I want to collaborate with other nonprofits on the issues that are pertinent to our continued growth like housing and staffing, and find creative solutions to these issues because we are all in this together. My heart is in it to build on the already firm foundation that is CES and make it stronger."
What do you think sets our nonprofit apart from other organizations that serve adults with disabilities, and how do you think we can continue to differentiate ourselves and stand out in a crowded nonprofit landscape?
"Wow, where do I start? From the moment you enter our office here in Jackson you are greeted by our clients and our amazing office manager Crocker. Our Day-Hab is managed by Jessie who makes sure that our client goals and plans are kept on track. She also provides the little extras like celebrating birthdays and other milestones in our clients lives. Dan makes sure that our clients weekend needs are met including supporting grocery shopping and budgeting. Our office is always moving with staff taking clients to jobs and various activities. Our Direct Support Staff members are amazing! Their heart and compassion for our clients is one of CES’s greatest strengths. Everyone here is part of the CES culture of caring. We are kind of like one big family, we support each other and help each other through the day."
To learn more about Community Entry Services and to make a donation, visit ces-usa.com/donate