Program Manager, Human Resources Unlimited, Pyramid ProjectChristin Deremian says that people living with physical and mental disabilities often have a difficult time finding advocates to help with their various needs.
“Everyone has a different need for our services,” she said, explaining her role at the Pyramid Project, a division of Human Resources Unlimited in Springfield, “from getting up and walking around to working on their reading, writing, or socializing skills.”
For the past nine years, Deremian has been affiliated with HRU, striving to be one of those advocates she says the area lacks.
“I’m working to empower folks here,” she said, “because many people don’t know their rights, or even that they’re able to vote. We need to offer them the dignity of risk. Just because they’re disabled doesn’t mean they can’t go out and make their own choices.”
Deremian said Pyramid and HRU are proponents of the so-called ‘clubhouse model’ in a number of their programs, which means “focusing on people’s abilities, rather than their disabilities. We strive to make people feel wanted, needed, and appreciated — because that’s how everyone should feel.”
At Pyramid, she works with 70 members and 300 staff, and her colleagues credit her with taking the clubhouse to a new level.
By focusing more on what people can do than what they can’t, she has created programs that offer music, pet, swim, and massage therapies; armchair travel, culinary, and book clubs; a woodworking unit, and a member-produced newsletter. But her advocacy doesn’t stop at the office door.
Deremian, an accomplished equestrian — she was the youngest caption of the Central Mass. national show-jumping team — is also an active member of the Springfield Public School System’s Read-Aloud program, and supporter of the Molly Bish Foundation. Bish was a family friend, Deremian said, and she is proud to support efforts to raise awareness of missing and exploited children, “to ensure that this doesn’t happen to anyone else’s family.”
“My father always said to me, ‘if you’re going to do something, do it well, or don’t do it at all,’” she added. “If it’s going to be worth my time, then it has to be something that I can take pride in.”
— Dan Chase