Stephen Williams is a service disabled veteran that served in the US Army from 1991-1993. Originally from West Virginia, Stephen settled down in Louisiana after completing his last station of duty at Fort Polk.
After leaving the military, Stephen attempted to find a full-time position with various construction companies. Despite his motivation and eagerness to work, he found it challenging to obtain long-term employment since none of the companies he worked for would provide accommodations for his disability. Stephen had been injured during his military service, and now has difficulty walking and standing for a long time.
Determined to reach his goal and find an employer that would not view his disability as an obstacle, Stephen turned to Louisiana Rehabilitation Services for help; they referred him to PRIDE Industries. Stephen became a PRIDE employee at Fort Polk in October 2010.
Stephen first began as a Maintenance Trades Helper in the HVAC shop. Due to his hard work and motivation, he was promoted to a General Maintenance Worker (GMW). His current duties include maintaining and repairing AC and heating units, replacing filters and exhaust fans, and responding to various work orders called in by military personnel at Fort Polk. Stephen attends to his work with great enthusiasm. According to PRIDE job coach Jaccara Sandanski, he has received several positive comments from military personnel on the quality of his work and reliable punctuality.
Stephen enjoys his job and especially feels proud that he gets to contribute to the well-being of the soldiers on base. Stephen says, “When I was in the military, everybody worked hard for us. I feel that I have a duty to pay it back.” He appreciates that his fellow PRIDE employees also share the same attitude and provide great service to the troops at Fort Polk every day. “That’s why we are here, to be supportive for our soldiers.”
To help our employees with disabilities overcome challenges, PRIDE provides accommodations, job coaching, and counseling. To accommodate his disability, PRIDE installed a step ladder on Stephen’s work truck, which makes it easier for him to drive around base to complete service orders. He also receives support from PRIDE’s rehabilitation counselor and job coach, Sonja Matthews and Jaccara Sandanski. According to Sonja, “Stephen took a proactive role in identifying his disability related challenges at work, and successfully overcame these obstacles with a few modifications made to his vehicle.” This type of support system has helped our employees with disabilities thrive and reach their full potential; or, as Stephen puts it, “Prove to myself that I could do anything that anyone else can.”
Stephen is looking to his future now. In order to advance his career skills, he has taken the NCCER (National Center for Construction Education and Research) core course available to PRIDE employees at Fort Polk. NCCER creates curriculum and assists in program development to foster construction training. Training is tailored to our employees with disabilities employing a variety of techniques including visual aids and field trips. Stephen desires to use this training to further his career aspirations; his new goal is to be promoted from a GMW to Boiler Tender when a position becomes available.
Now that Stephen is on a successful career path, his next personal goal is to purchase a home for his family which includes two children, a nephew, and a grandchild. According to Stephen “Life is short; strive for all of your goals to the best of your ability. Never settle!”
Stephen’s story is another example of how people with disabilities can thrive in the workplace with proper accommodation and supports.