Barbara Suttle was not about to let anything get in the way of pursuing her life’s dreams — not a lack of transportation and especially not a learning disability.

It was that hope and determination that inspired the West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services to name the 25-year-old Mount Hope native as its 2005 Beckley district Rehabilitant of the Year. The Beckley district covers Fayette, McDowell, Mercer, Raleigh, Summers and Wyoming counties.

Suttle, who works as a cook’s aide and housekeeper at A Place to Grow day care center in Oak Hill, never expected to be honored for what comes naturally to her.

“I like being around all the kids, and I like the staff,” she explained. “Everybody here is really friendly. If they see you need help or something, there is always somebody to help. I just feel like it’s a good place to work.”

Before the October ceremony in Institute, Suttle didn’t even know that such an award existed. Even less was the amount of time and thought she invested in thinking about being recognized for what she has accomplished.

“I was surprised. I never had thought about it, so it was kind of unexpected. They had a really nice ceremony.”

Suttle graduated from Mount Hope High School in 1999. A year later, she began taking classes at Ben Franklin Career Center in Dunbar while residing in the DRS dorms in nearby Institute. She had only words of praise for both.

“I had no transportation, so I couldn’t have commuted back and forth for the classes,” she explained.

“They helped me by letting me stay in the dorms and take classes. They focus a lot on independence and life skills. There is a big variety of programs with a lot to offer — cooking, welding, driver’s education, child care.”

It was the last category that struck a nerve with Suttle. After completing the program, she returned home only to find she was without a job. John Morgan, a DRS counselor, helped her solve that problem by putting her in contact with A Place to Grow. Two years hence tell of a determined young woman who fears nothing.

“It really takes patience and a love for children to keep working in this environment,” said Melissa Colagrosso, the day care center’s owner and director. “She just works with the children and the co-workers so well.”

When asked about her plans for the future, Suttle provided a subtle, yet profound reply.

“I hadn’t thought about it, I guess. I’ll just take it as it comes.”

— E-mail: mhill@register-herald.com

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