Kenneth Parris has a disability, but don’t tell him that is an obstacle to achieving his goals. He will prove you wrong.
Kenneth was selected as the first recipient of the PRIDE Industries Scholarship through the University of Texas El Paso (UTEP.) Studies find that students with disabilities are less than half as likely as their peers to attend college in the two years after high school. The PRIDE Industries Scholarship Program was developed to support individuals with disabilities in pursuit of higher education goals.
(October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, enacted by Congress in 1945 to raise awareness about disability employment issues. For 45 years, PRIDE Industries, a nonprofit company, has been creating meaningful jobs for people with disabilities in its own businesses and in partnership with others. )
Kenneth was a business student with a degree in Computer Information Systems when we first met him. He wrote in November 2010 to thank PRIDE for his scholarship, stating that it improved his self-esteem and confidence and inspired him to support his community by encouraging other individuals with disabilities to pursue their higher education goals. Bachelor’s degree in hand, Kenneth set out on his job search.
After eight months of job searching, Kenneth was frustrated as he encountered only closed doors. People with disabilities face unemployment at nearly four times the rate of the general population, not because they don’t want to work or are unable, but largely because employers don’t realize the benefits that people with disabilities can bring to the workplace. Without that first resume-building opportunity, the hurdles quickly become insurmountable. That’s where PRIDE steps in.
In 2011 Kenneth came to work on PRIDE’s base wide facilities support services contract at Fort Bliss, TX where he works in the IT department on the installation of hardware, software, and infrastructure, in addition to managing IT equipment inventories. In a supportive environment, Kenneth has received training in technical and soft skills development, and the minimal accommodations necessary to turn opportunity into success.
Kenneth says that working for PRIDE had helped him improve his social skills while expanding his IT knowledge. He loves earning a paycheck and managing his own money. Most of all, he loves being part of the IT team. He is working on additional certifications, and he is working toward increased independence, with plans to move to his own apartment.
Kenneth’s own can-do attitude and courage are the greatest contributors to his success. He says that anything is possible as long as you set your mind to it. “Nothing to it, but to do it,” he says. And he’s doing it – with PRIDE.