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Doing Something Positive – What It Means to Be a Direct Support Professional

If you are someone who wants to enact positive change in the world but are unsure of how to start, consider becoming a Direct Support Professional (DSP). DSPs provide vital services that allow individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live within their communities, live independently, socialize, and be a part of the workforce.

We asked former and current DSPs about their experiences, the positive impact of their work, and what input they have for someone who is considering becoming a DSP. Here is what they had to say:

I worked as a DSP for 8 months at the Krome Apts group home in Homestead. One of my favorite moments as a DSP was seeing how my individuals looked forward to me coming to work daily, and if I was not in place, they made it a point to ask where I was. The reward was learning that I made a difference in their lives and they noticed. If you are considering entering this field as a DSP, it can be very rewarding and will give you a great opportunity to see the need and importance of being a DSP. You will get to assist individuals with their daily living and advocate for them when needed. In addition, Sunrise Community offers opportunities for growth and encourages promotion from within the company.

Carla Ivey, Accounts Payable Clerk at Sunrise National Headquarters

I have worked for Sunrise Community, Inc. for 10 years. When one of the individuals I support graduated this year, his high school had a drive-thru graduation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He worked very hard to build his vocabulary and other skills. He has grown so much over the last 3 years. I was so proud to take him to his graduation. When we pulled up to the school all of his teachers were there with signs and gifts cheering him on! He grabbed my hand and said my name. I cried like a proud mom and I will never forget that feeling. If you are here for just the money, you are in the wrong position. Your heart has to be in it! The individuals I support are my family and I want them to grow and be as independent as they want to be. Sunrise is a teaching facility.

Lisa R. Hill-Ellis, Direct Support Professional at Sunrise Community, Inc – Hillsborough County

I have worked for Sunrise for nearly 15 years. Throughout my time with Sunrise there have been countless moments that illuminate the impact of my role as a DSP. Recently, we were helping the persons supported set personal goals. One of the individuals wanted to focus on her health. She adopted many new habits to accomplish her goal. We started taking walks together in the afternoons. After a few weeks, she thanked me for all the things I was doing to help her even though she felt not much had changed and she hadn’t accomplished anything. I reminded her that making efforts to better yourself is already a positive change in and of itself. This switch in perspective meant so much to her. Even after 15 years with Sunrise, my input for anyone considering becoming a DSP is the same—make sure you have a heart for it, it can’t be about the money. If you’re given an opportunity to help somebody, no matter what their capabilities are, take it. The more you embrace that, the sooner you’ll find your purpose.

Jackie Williams, Direct Support Professional at Sunrise Community – Central Miami-Dade

Although their experiences and lengths of service vary, the common thread that ties these DPSs responses together is that changing lives is what it is all about. At Sunrise, we have found that the value systems of most of our employees directly align with the organization’s mission. The individuals that Sunrise employs are all driven by the notion of creating lasting and meaningful change in the lives of the people we serve. If you value understanding, connecting, and engaging with others in a compassionate way, and making a lasting and positive change in the lives of others… you might be the perfect candidate to become a Direct Support Professional.