Community Involvement Programs, Minneapolis, MN


Meg Lee is Program​ Manager​ of Supported Employment Services at Community Involvement Programs . She can be reached at

Shauna Cropsey is Program Manager of Community Engagement Services at Community Involvement Programs . She can be reached at

Rambo prepping vegetables at Parkway Pizza in Minneapolis

Just by his name alone, you might guess that Rambo has a big personality. He is an outgoing young man with a passion for people. He always asks everyone he meets about their history. What is their story? Where are they from? Who is in their family? He especially liked to ask what people like to eat. Since coming to Community Involvement Programs (CIP) in 2010, Rambo had been very outspoken about his desire to find a job. He wanted to work with people, ask these questions, and be independent. Although Rambo’s outgoing and friendly personality landed him several customer-service jobs, he struggled to find a balance between friendship and professionalism with customers.

Meg Lee, Rambo’s employment consultant, helped Rambo find and keep employment that best fits him. She felt that his people skills and passion for food could be used in a position where he wouldn’t need to negotiate the more sensitive interactions with customers. But she wanted to find a place where he could still be outgoing and make jokes. What better place than in a kitchen? After talking about the possibilities with Rambo, who hadn’t ever really considered cooking (although he said he definitely likes to eat!), he decided to interview at Parkway Pizza in South Minneapolis. Rambo was offered a job on the spot as a Prep Assistant.

Photograph of Parkway Pizza neon sign.

On the way home, Rambo expressed that he had no interest in working there. He said that he thought it was "stupid." He said he "doesn’t want to work." Meg encouraged him to stay positive and "look outside of the box." She believed he had many talents to bring to the job. She encouraged him to think about it over the weekend and talk about it with the DSPs who support him at home. She didn’t want him to do something that he didn’t want to do. But she believed this could be a positive work environment for Rambo.

The DSPs who support Rambo at home also expressed some doubts. Based on past experiences, they wondered if he would be able to learn the job and complete tasks independently. But Rambo decided to give it a shot.

In the beginning, Rambo was nervous about the new position. He didn’t know "how" to do the job. Once he realized that he was totally capable and had supports, he said, "I wanna work here all day!"

Rambo preps meats and vegetables for pizzas and salads. He portions cilantro cups. He makes garlic butter for their delicious garlic bread. And, he chooses the best hip hop music for the kitchen crew. Since starting his position in November 2014, Rambo has learned basic cooking skills and better communication. He has learned how to have positive and respectful interactions with others… while still having fun. Rambo’s thoughts on his newly developed skills? "I love to cook now and I love working here!"

Rambo entertaining the crew with is rapping skills during the photo shoot for Frontline Initiative.

Shauna Cropsey, Program Manager at CIP, remembers preparing for Rambo’s annual meeting in June of 2016. She read a sentence in his Vocational Assessment Summary that made her do a double-take: "CIP believed correctly that Rambo could be transitioned into natural supports at work relatively quickly. He is currently working at Parkway Pizza without a job coach on site." This put a huge smile on her face. For a really long time, no one in Rambo’s life believed he could work a "regular" job for minimum wage or higher. They definitely did not believe he could ever work independently. By helping Rambo achieve his ultimate goal to find a job, CIP was successful in helping Rambo to live his greatest life.

More than three years later, Rambo is still employed at Parkway Pizza. He has required only natural supports from his employer to do his job since April 2016. He no longer receives ongoing job supports from an Employment Consultant, though he is still involved in other community engagement activities with CIP’s support on the days he doesn’t work. Like others beginning a new job, Rambo started knowing nothing about being a prep cook. Now he is considered one of Parkway Pizza’s valuable employees!