Setting goals and sticking to them, with Sebastian McBurney

What’s the best approach to making the most of the transition program years?

For Sebastian McBurney, the answer is simple: just act like being a transition student is your job.

“You have to show up, sign in when you arrive, participate as much as you can, and then say goodbye before you leave,” said McBurney.

By treating the transition program like a job, McBurney gained experiences that helped him define important goals for his life. His list included finding a job at a business he liked, earning his driver’s license, living independently, and setting up a savings account. Achieving any one of those goals would be impressive—but McBurney has done them all.


Saying “yes” to every opportunity

McBurney, age 20, will graduate this spring from the Community Transition Program (CTP) in Springfield, Oregon. He feels ready for the change, knowing that during his years as a transition student he said yes to every opportunity that came his way.

Sally Mann, transition teacher at CTP, sees a clear connection between the commitment McBurney showed as a transition student and the success he is experiencing 

“Sebastian joined the transition program during distance learning, which was challenging, but even then he was a good participant. Once we got to meet in person, he became even stronger in his participation. Since then, Sebastian has accomplished more than any student I have known at CTP. He’s willing to try things that are hard, and he’s open to asking for help with problem-solving when needed,” said Mann.

McBurney started building his resume by working at the CTP coffee cart and the high school catering class. That helped him find a position working at the concession stand for the Eugene Emeralds and University of Oregon baseball games, and at a Carl’s Jr. restaurant. Most recently, McBurney was hired for the job that fits his long-term goals: a courtesy clerk position at Albertsons grocery store. 

“I always liked Albertsons grocery store because the people are friendly. When they had a job fair I brought in my resume. We talked for a while during the interview and then they said ‘You’re hired!’ I like being a courtesy clerk because it’s always busy and I can talk with lots of different people,” said McBurney.


Setting life goals beyond finding employment

As much as McBurney enjoys his job, he keeps his focus on other life goals as well. He wants to live independently. For McBurney, that means being able to drive his own car and live in his own home.

His first step towards the goal of owning a car was to learn to drive. He enrolled in driver education classes that could be paid for through Vocational Rehabilitation (VR). After attending twelve class sessions, he got to check that goal off his list: McBurney passed the test with a score of 97% and received his license.

Meanwhile, McBurney started planning for his own apartment. He saved every extra dollar—even the gift cards he received for attendance and participation at CTP—so he could eventually buy furnishings. As Mann explained, “Sebastian wanted to be ready when the opportunity came up to move into an apartment. He knew he could make it happen.”

In December of 2022, his family recognized that McBurney was ready to move into a more independent living situation. He now shares an apartment with his sister and a friend. The three roommates work different schedules, so they have plenty of privacy and space. The apartment is perfect for now, but McBurney has bigger dreams: he’d like to be a homeowner. And for that, he needed to find a better way to save money.


The ABLE account: a great way to save

“I’ve always been more of a saver than a spender,” said McBurney. But a person can only save up to two thousand dollars in their bank account without impacting social security benefits. With a car and a house in mind, McBurney wanted to save far more than that.

He worked with Mann and with Rhonda Tolleson, YTP Specialist, to set up an ABLE account. This type of savings account allows people with disabilities to save money without losing social security or Medicaid benefits. ABLE accounts can be set up as simple cash-only savings, or they can be investment accounts that grow through stocks and bonds 

ABLE stands for Achieving a Better Life Experience, because the purpose of the account is to help pay for big goals like housing, education, and transportation. Families can set up ABLE accounts for their children with disabilities, or young adults with disabilities can set up ABLE accounts for themselves, with the help of VR or transition program specialists. These accounts make bigger dreams possible for transition students like McBurney.

“Sebastian is so driven to reach his goals. Setting up the ABLE account simply opened a way for him to make it happen. We’re all so impressed by his stick-to-it attitude, regardless of if he’s tired or not feeling well. He balances so much in his life, and he’s able to achieve all these dreams,” said Mann.