Like many organizations, the leadership of one “key” executive behind the scenes often is the strength that puts an entity on the map. That’s the case with Skip Covell, the chief executive officer of The Arc of San Diego (formally known as the Association for Retarded Citizens).
Recently honored by the U.S. Department of Labor with the “Opportunity Awards for Exemplary Volunteer Efforts and Exemplary Public Interest Contributions,” Covell has dedicated his life to helping the disabled in the San Diego community and to regions beyond — bringing training, guidance, education, value, respect and opportunity to people touched with disabilities.
A native San Diegan, Covell has spent nearly 27 years serving the disabled community. His passion to help the disabled came from growing up and helping his sister who has special needs. Covell witnessed the struggles families faced and the changes they brought about by rallying around a common cause.
In 1969 as a student at San Diego State University, he volunteered through the Community Involvement Bureau and with the Youth Group and Special Olympics at The Arc of San Diego.
Starting in 1970, and for the next 25 years, Covell worked at The Arc of San Diego. After his summer job as camp counselor, he became a classroom aide, instructor, area director and eventually the chief financial officer.
He briefly served as treasurer for the City Chapter Advisory Board of The Arc of San Diego.
He met his wife, Jamie, at The Arc of San Diego, where she worked in its preschool program. In 1975, he and Jamie lost their first child from anencephalic, a neural tube disorder. Because of this loss, the births of their next three children (daughters Corrie and Stephanie, and son Christopher) were not without some trepidation, as the possibility of them having a similar disorder was fairly high. This gives him the unique perspective of a parent as well as a sibling of someone with a disability and empathy for both our consumers and their parents.
Under Covell’s leadership, Arc assists developmentally challenged adults to learn everything from basic life skills, such as feeding oneself and learning proper socialization skills, to grocery shopping and work-experience training.
Arc has more than 1,000 of its consumers working in jobs within the San Diego community. There is a stigma that people with special needs should be locked up in an institution; with Covell’s vision and leadership, these individuals are making a contribution to the community and have great pride doing it.
The Arc of San Diego is a private not-for-profit that is one of the region’s largest human-service agencies. It has been helping make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities and their families in San Diego for over 50 years. Every year, the need for services and programs expands, and with Covell’s leadership so will The Arc of San Diego!