Meet Andre Mack
Chips, candy and granola bars are just some of the yummy treats that Andre Mack offers employees in the Social Security Administration (SSA) building located on Chicago’s near west side.
A 2013 graduate of Currie High School, Andre, who is legally blind, is assistant manager of the building’s Vending Machine operation.
He credits The Chicago Lighthouse with giving him the skills and self-confidence to flourish in this role.
“After attending a field trip to The Lighthouse with my school, I was blown away by the wide array of programs that it offers,” he smiled.
Shortly thereafter, he decided to utilize the Low Vision Clinic and Employment Services. As a client in Employment Services, Andre enrolled in the Transitional Jobs Program as an intern. Expressing an interest in the Vending Program, he was introduced to his future boss, Dan Dwyer of the National Association of Blind Vendors. Dan was seeking an intern to assist him with the vending machines in the Social Security Administration building.
The two got together and Andre’s career path began to develop.
His six-month internship, which began in July 2015 and lasted through December 2015, included working in all aspects of the vending machine business. He stocked the machines by regulating the “first in, first out” method; worked with the computers inside the machine, such as the broken or damaged cash changer; and also handled any customer service problems and complaints that arose.
Typically, Andre and Dan arrived at the SSA building around 5:30 a.m.
Throughout the last year they worked together, Andre was not absent or late once. “His outstanding attendance record showed me that he is highly motivated and committed to the job itself,” Dan noted.
As a result of Andre’s stellar work performance, he was offered and accepted a full-time permanent position as Assistant Manager of the Vending Machine business at the SSA building.
Andre continues to receive high praise for the quality of his work. In November, 2015, he received an award for Outstanding Employee, which was presented by the Illinois Committee of Blind Vendors/Business Enterprise Program for the Blind.
Currently, Andre is attending Hadley School for the Blind where he is studying Business and Leadership. He is set to complete the program this November. Andre now finds himself a sought-after speaker. Recently, he talked about his experiences before the Illinois Conference of Blind Vendors at their Semi-Annual Training Conference.
He also received 6 certificates from Mississippi State University through the Randolph Sheppard Business Enterprise Program in the following areas –
- Introduction to Blindness and Low Vision
- Working with Blind Entrepreneurs with Hearing Loss
- Human Resources and the Blind Entrepreneur
- The Role of the Business Consultant
- Healthier Food Options
- Assistive Technology and Its Potential for Blind Entrepreneurs
Optimistic about the future, Andre will be working with the Department of Human Services- Bureau of Blind Services counselors to make presentations to senior citizens to recruit them to the program. He hopes to one day have his own vending machine location where he would, in effect, be his own boss.
For others who are coping with a disability, Andre urges them to “hang in there and don’t give up!”