“There is no greater disability in society, than the inability to see a person as more.” – Robert M. Hensel
At a young age, Veries Leon Echols (“Leon”) exhibited difficulty with reading, writing, and math skills. His challenges included auditory sequencing, memory, and comprehension. Diagnosed with a learning disability, he was told that he would never be able to support himself or live independently. His confidence already shaken, he was traumatized by criticism and teasing endured as a child and teen. Fear or ridicule left him incapable of speaking or reading aloud in public.
Leon grew up in a family of musicians. In 2002, he took an interest himself. He began with the wind flute, but listening to a work of composer, John Williams led him to the violin – his current passion.
Music can connect people in ways that words cannot. PRIDE Industries can connect people in ways that traditional businesses often do not.
Leon joined PRIDE Industries in 2002. He began by working on PRIDE’s food service contract at Travis Air Force Base (AFB). From there, he went to work on PRIDE’s housing contract, eventually landing a position on the landscaping crew. The road was a little bumpy, but Leon has found a good fit in his current position as a grounds maintenance laborer.
With the support of his manager and team members, Leon has learned how to operate the landscaping equipment and excel in his job. Most importantly, he has gained valuable confidence in his abilities. This confidence manifests itself in public speaking, serving as a crew leader, volunteering as a martial arts instructor, and even learning and speaking some foreign languages.
During his breaks, he can often be heard practicing the violin that is with him always. Music has become another form of self-expression that Leon now shares freely. In fact, last summer, our aspiring musician caught the attention of a local publication.
With coaching, support and opportunity, Leon has surpassed the limiting expectations placed on him as a child. His confidence and passion for expressing himself through his music have led to a transformation and a level of independence no one expected him to achieve. Today, he has a job, lives alone in his apartment with some support, and freely shares his talents with others.
“Being employed with PRIDE Industries has helped me overcome many personal fears that once held me back,” says Leon.
He works hard at leaving the trauma of his childhood behind. “Working at PRIDE, I have learned about the importance of teamwork. I have learned a lot about responsibility, and I have been given stability,” says Leon.
Leon reminds us that people with disabilities are talented and capable. We just have to look beyond the disability to the person inside. “It feels fantastic to prove the naysayers wrong,” says Leon.