About James Rapp
I was born on Nov. 10, 1978 with a physical disability in South Korea. At age two, I was abandoned by my family and ended up at the orphanage in Seoul, South Korea. Before I was adopted by an American family in 1990, I grew up in the Christian community and lived with the other people in the orphanage. While I was living there, one of my dreams was to become a pastor of the church.
When I arrived to the United States in September 1990, I started to learn the whole new language and living situation with my new family in Modesto, California. During my first year in the United States, I restarted sixth grade, where I received the basic learning skills; such as reading, writing, and math. It was not easy to learn how to write and speak English. My family tried to use a Korean-English dictionary to communicate with me at first. While my family and I were in California, I went through my junior school years and started my high school years. My family and I attended church every Sunday and church activities during the week. By the time I finished the first half of my freshmen year in high school, my family and I moved to Virginia during the blizzard of 1996.
When my family and I moved to Virginia, we lived with my mother’s friends until we found a rental home in Springfield, VA. Meanwhile, I attended Falls Church High School in Falls Church, VA, because my parents couldn’t find a school to support my disability that was close to home. By attending Falls Church High School, I had a great experience in leadership skills by being a student officer for the Special Education Department. During my last couple years in Falls Church High School, I attended postsecondary school during the two summers to learn independent living skills and had a job placement evaluation at Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center (WWRC) in Fishersville, VA with the help from Dept. of Rehabilitation Services (now, it is called Dept. of Aging and Rehabilitation Services). By the time I went into my senior year, my family and I found a house in Spotsylvania County. So, I completed my last six months of my senior year in Spotsylvania High School and graduated in June 2000.
After graduating from Spotsylvania High School, I returned to Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center for vocational training in the accounting field. During my stay at the center for eighteen months, I learned a lot about how to do accounting and other business tasks such as: typing skills, customer relations, and data entry. Also, I received an internship program at Mount Valley Corporation in Waynesboro, VA for six weeks in the accounting field. Even though it was difficult to live and study there due to diverse groups of people, I found some good Christian friends, who helped and encouraged me to go through the training program. If I didn’t meet them, I wouldn’t have survived there. With their assistance, I was able to speak about my faith and disability before WWRC faculties and Fishersville Baptist Church congregations.
In addition to my training, I received an evaluation in order to purchase a communication device of my own with the help from WWRC and Dept. of Rehabilitation Services. Having a communication device helps me to communicate with people better. Before deciding to purchase my own device, I had to apply for Medicaid with the help from WWRC. It was a good thing I did, because the price of purchasing a communication device is like the cost of buying a new car. By applying for Medicaid, I now receive health care services, assistive technology, home modifications, and other services that help me to live independently.
Before graduating from WWRC in June 2002, WWRC counselor, my parents, and I had a meeting about what I’d like to do after completing my training. Since I had received independent living training, I decided to live independently with community resources, as long as my parents supported my decision. With the help from the City of Fredericksburg Dept. of Rehabilitation Center, I would try to find a job. So, with the help from Dept. of Rehabilitation Services and parents, I have been living independently in a one-bedroom apartment in the Fredericksburg area. Even though I didn’t find the job that was related to my vocational training, I am able to use my skills to maintain my living situation and continuing being active in the community.
During my first couple years at my apartment it was tough, because I was hardly able to find a stable job. Even though I received some help from Dept. of Rehabilitation Services, my first two jobs didn’t last long due to my disability. With the help from my church, I continued to be active in the community by volunteering at Christian Family Counseling Services, taking some Bible college courses and general education courses through Germanna Community College, where I took my first two classes in 2004. However, after I volunteered at the disAbility Resource Center for seven months in 2007, my position turned into a part-time job. I’ve been working there since and I wanted to do more with my life. That was when I decided to return to Germanna Community College to further my education in business.
In 2010, I decided to become a U.S. citizen through naturalization with the help from my work. One of the peer counselors, who is also known as my coworker, helped me to fill out some necessary paperwork and send it to USCIS Office to begin the process. Even though it was too expensive to do the naturalization, I was eligible to receive the federal financial aid to apply for the whole naturalization process. In the meantime, my father was able to help me to get to places to complete the process. After taking a test at Norfolk USCIS Office in VA, I became a naturalized U.S. citizen in July 2011. The following year in 2012, I was able to vote for the very first time for the U.S. President.
There may be some people who believe that a person who has disability can’t do anything to achieve his or her dream, but one of the mottos I always hold in my mind is from Apostle Paul, which he said, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me (Philippians 4:13 KJV).”