BY FRANKI ROSENTHAL
Ever since Class of 2015 alumna Alexis Chung graduated, she said her life has not been as happy as it was when she won homecoming queen. That was, until she started working at Scentsability, a nonprofit organization that specializes in making scented products for home and body use.
Denise Anderson, Chung’s mother, said that Chung’s transition after leaving high school was extremely difficult as she was very limited in her choices after graduation.
“There is a huge issue for young adults with intellectual disabilities after they leave high school, because there really aren’t many options on what they can do,” Anderson said. “For Alexis, as someone who was involved in school as the homecoming queen, cheer buddies and being someone who the entire school knew and who the entire community knows, the struggle was intense after she left high school.”
Anderson said she spent months searching for future educational and job opportunities for Alexis that would offer her work.
“My husband brought home a candle from an event that Scentsability was at along with a business card,” Anderson said. “It took a while for me to finally reach out to the director of the company, but I knew that Alexis really needed something. Considering that there were so few options, I finally reached out, and ever since then, Alexis has been working at Scentsability.”
Anderson said it was necessary for Alexis to involve herself in something outside of the Bay because of all the difficulties she faced directly after leaving.
“She has sat home for the last year and has gone through anxiety, depression and weight gain because she lost all aspects of her socialization,” Anderson said. “She lost that place where she could go and all of her needs could be met. Whether it be socially, medically, intellectually or emotionally, but it all came to a screeching halt.”
Scentsability was started by a mother whose daughter was going through the same problems as Chung after graduating from high school. It became a place where individuals with any disability could go to work and make all of the company’s products.
“I made the decision to partner up with the director of Scentsability in an effort to try to create something even bigger that offers more job opportunities for these young adults to get out of their homes and get that social aspect back into their lives,” Anderson said.
Anderson said the company is very important for her daughter, and for many other young adults like Chung, because it provides the feeling of acceptance within their community.
“Scentsability offers a place where individuals can have a sense of purpose and they [become] productive members of their community again,” Anderson said. “They are accepted, loved, sociable and feel like there is still meaning to their life. This is a place where Alexis can go and always be looked at for her abilities and not her disabilities. We purely focus on what all of them can do as opposed to what they can’t, and it truly makes a difference in their lives overall.”
Chung said she loves her new job at Scentsability and enjoys working with all of the new friends she has made.
“I love my job, and I love all of my friends that I work with,” Chung said. “These are all my best friends and if you see what we do, we will blow your mind.”
Scentsability has helped Chung get back to the place she was socially in high school.
“I have learned what eye contact is with all of my friends at my job,” Chung said. “At fundraisers I like to sell the candles to customers and talk to everyone who buys what we make.”
Anderson said ever since her daughter started working at Scentsability in August, she caught on quickly with everything she needed to do.
“It did not take long for Alexis to learn what she was doing and what was expected of her when she started working,” Anderson said. “We went to Scentsability one day, and she immediately connected. She connected with the culture that was there of being accepted and being loved in a happy and productive place. I knew that night coming home that that is where she connected; she showed it to all of us.”
With Chung’s new job at Scentsability came many new responsibilities and tasks.
“My favorite thing to do is to mix the wax and make the wicks,” Chung said. “I also love to make the white tea scent and make labels.”
Aside from her current job at Scentsability, Chung aspires to be an actress one day, and she recently acted as an extra in a movie coming out in 2017.
“Alexis is already in an acting club for individuals with intellectual disabilities, and she was an extra in the movie ‘Girlfriend Killer’ which is coming out soon,” Anderson said. “Alexis’ passion is to be in a movie; she told me when she was 6-years-old that all she wanted was to be on TV and now all these years later it’s actually happening.”
Anderson believes the premise behind Scentsability has been amazing for Alexis and other young adults facing similar difficulties as she once did.
“It is so beautiful to see what this place has to offer for Alexis and how happy it makes her,” Anderson said. “While some kids want to go off and be doctors and have that sense of accomplishment from what they do, Alexis feels accomplished in the same ways but from different things. We all feed off of accomplishments. At the end of the day it is the thought of being accepted, because acceptance equates to love and all anyone wants is to feel loved wherever they are.”