SJ Student One of 12 Award Winners at MI Rehabilitation Svcs

A student from St. Joseph has emerged as one of twelve award winners in ceremonies last night in Lansing from the Michigan Council of Rehabilitation Services.

Nathan Rush was joined at the award podium by State Representative Pauline Wendzel and Ashley Spratling as the 11th Annual Champion Awards were presented to employers and other partners being recognized for investing in persons with disabilities in the Great Lakes State.

Champions who demonstrate outstanding commitment to Michigan’s vocational rehabilitation programs, as well as invest in persons with disabilities were recognized during the awards ceremony Thursday.

Michigan Rehabilitation Services (MRS), within the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity collaborated with the Michigan Council for Rehabilitation Services and Michigan Career and Technical Institute (MCTI) to recognize businesses, partners and customers, one of which was Nathan Rush from St. Joe. He was accompanied by Ashley Spratling of St. Joe, who was a member of the 2019 Class of the Moody on the Market 40 Under 40 this spring.

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MRS and MCTI staff nominate champion candidates based on investing in persons with disabilities through hiring practices and retaining vocational rehabilitation customers.

MRS Director Tina Fullerton says, “Individuals who show a commitment to hiring people with disabilities are not only setting an example for others, they’re also allowing people with disabilities to make contributions to the workforce and proving that hiring these talented individuals makes good business sense,” and adds, “Investing in abilities strengthens our communities by including the skills and talents of all Michiganders to build on economic prosperity within our state.”

This event takes place during Investing in Abilities Month, as proclaimed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to encourage employers to hire qualified people with disabilities while focusing on their abilities and increasing the public’s awareness of the contributions and skills of Michigan workers with disabilities.

The awards presented to the champions were engraved by students in the cabinetmaking and millwork program at the Michigan Career and Technical Institute, the state’s vocational and technical training school in Southwest Michigan.

These are the 2019 MRS Champion Award recipients:

Business partners from large businesses that are working in innovative ways with MRS and its customers:

  • Blue Cross Blue Shield Blue Care Network of Michigan, Detroit
  • Manpower, Marquette

Business partners from small businesses that are working in innovative ways with MRS and its customers:

  • Thierica Inc., Grand Rapids
  • Boll Family YMCA, Detroit

Customers (including youth) who are motivated and committed to obtaining employment:

  • Katherine Bellis, Kalamazoo
  • Jacob Quakenbush, Oak Park

Students who are motivated to overcome obstacles to continue their education:

  • Samantha Trout, Kewadin
  • Nathan Rush, St. Joseph

Community partners who have demonstrated a strong commitment to empowering individuals with disabilities to take charge of their futures:

  • Kent Transition Center, Grand Rapids
  • Livingston Educational Service Agency, Howell

Statewide partners who have demonstrated a strong commitment to empower individuals with disabilities to take charge of their futures:

  • Michigan Department of Natural Resources – Parks and Recreation, Waterford
  • Easterseals Michigan AgrAbility, Battle Creek and Macomb

Every year, MRS assists more than 7,000 people with disabilities in obtaining competitive jobs and becoming self-sufficient.

For more information about MRS or the Michigan Career and Technical Institute, visit online at or