What I Can Achieve

Things are looking up for Justin Igama as he gets closer to reaching his dream of becoming a physical therapist; he is currently earning his degree in kinesiology while working as an associate at Amazon, Inc. “What inspires and motivates me to enter this career field is that these professionals helped me navigate through my own mobility issues. I will be able to relate to patients since I have experienced all of the related challenges and breakthroughs.”

Justin has cerebral palsy (CP), a neurological disorder that affects muscle coordination and mobility. Individuals with cerebral palsy experience symptoms differently, which can include paralysis, inability to walk or to communicate verbally. According to the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, one in three people affected by cerebral palsy are unable to walk, and one in five cannot talk.

“I received my diagnosis of CP when I was three years old,” said Justin. “It feels like my brain doesn’t communicate well with my muscles. Having this disability used to make me insecure and doubt my abilities; however, it made me develop resilience and determination. My involvement in sports such as wrestling and boxing has also helped me realize that I can achieve what I set my mind to, including working in a competitive environment.”

While starting his college studies in 2016, Justin attempted to find work to support himself. After several months of struggling to find a position, he was referred to PRIDE Industries’ Employment Services Office in Sacramento, CA. With help from Job Coach John Edwards, he practiced interviewing and fine-tuned his resume.

“I learned that a positive first impression is key to engaging employers,” says Justin. “I made special efforts to speak properly and to dress well. However, after multiple interviews, I noticed that my disability and use of a cane to walk might have convinced many that I could not do a job involving lifting and walking around. It proved very frustrating.”

Despite the wait of almost a year, timing proved perfect when PRIDE placed Justin into an associate trainee position at Amazon’s Sacramento Fulfillment Center in late 2016. In this job, he was responsible for sorting items that were delivered to PRIME Now customers. “There were many challenges at first, including learning the variety of new instructions and rules,” said Justin. “I had to work really hard to prove myself.”

Applying skills that he learned from his training with PRIDE, Justin reached out to his supervisor to learn where he could improve. He took the advice and continued to receive consistent positive ratings. PRIDE Job Coach John Edwards was there to help Justin with encouragement and advice.

As Justin grew more skilled and confident, management took notice; Amazon offered him a permanent position in November 2017. “It felt great to finally obtain permanent employment and to prove that I am capable of working in competitive employment with people without disabilities,” said Justin. “They treat me as an important part of the team. With this job, I have earned independence and can support myself financially while I complete my studies.”

“I hope that my story helps others with cerebral palsy to show that they can also achieve successful employment. There may be challenges along the way, but with hard work, perseverance and a support team, they can accomplish their dreams.”

Spotlight On: PRIDE’s Woodland, CA Employment Services

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HELPING OTHERS

Our Woodland Employment Services Center is a small office with one Job Developer and three Job Coaches that services Yolo County, CA. Despite their small size, the team has created a huge impact in the community; for the last two years they have served more than 90 job development clients, provided 500 hours of job coaching and placed more than 50 people in employment. With funding made possible by generous donations to PRIDE Industries Foundation, they also create opportunities by offering paid internships to qualified individuals with disabilities looking to start their careers. Below are two stories of successful job placement:

JOHN CURTIS:

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“Employment has changed my life for the better. The opportunity to help my clients with disabilities succeed in employment motivates me every day.”

As a PRIDE Industries Job Coach, John Curtis helps clients with disabilities by providing coaching and training. John works very closely with each client to ensure they are successfully placed, starting with the intake process through their first weeks of employment preparation and following along after assisting the client in securing employment. He also maintains accurate case notes, reports throughout the process, and provides offsite job coaching, external situational assessments, vocational assessments and PVSA services.

What helps make John so successful at his job is his ability to relate to his clients’ experience – navigating a job search while having a disability. In 2016, John experienced a back injury; this disability and a lack of work experience (after recently obtaining his high school diploma) created obstacles to finding work. Seeking help, he contacted the Department of Rehabilitation, which referred him to PRIDE Industries.

After completing an ESA (External Situational Assessment) in 2017, to determine his job skills and interests, John started a paid internship at PRIDE’s Woodland, CA Employment Services Office. “John is a wonderful addition to our Woodland team,” says Job Developer Tara Vittone. “He learned so much in such a short period of time and occasionally helps solve our computer problems!” Just three months later, John was offered a permanent position with PRIDE.

In less than two years, John accomplished two major goals: completing his high school education and obtaining a full-time, meaningful job at PRIDE Industries. He plans to attend college to grow his career and aims to purchase his own home.

AREN SCARDACI: 

Aren

Aren struggled to find a full-time job that utilized his educational background. To jump start his career, he was referred to PRIDE Industries in late 2016.

With the extra help, Aren was able to extend his job search. “PRIDE’s staff was very supportive, and they helped me refine my employment soft skills while accommodating for my disability,” says Aren. “PRIDE works very hard to find their clients a job that fits their skills and background.”

To strengthen his resume, Aren was offered an internship with the Woodland Office in 2017. As an intern, he assisted with facilitating Job Club and working one-on-one with other PRIDE clients seeking employment. “Coaching other individuals allowed me to gain communication and practical skills that continue to help me today,” says Aren. His Job Developer also helped place Aren in a clerical volunteer position at the local United Way to continue to diversify his skills.

All the hard work finally paid off; in October 2017, Aren interviewed and was hired as a Computer Learning Center Coordinator job at Yolo County Housing. In this position, he helps youth residents use the computer lab, assists with homework and class material and leads educational activities. “

“This job is a perfect fit for me,” says Aren. “I enjoy sharing my outdoor education background with the residents. We recently conducted a scavenger hunt of California state parks using Google Maps.”

“I’m thankful for all the care and support from PRIDE’s staff. Employment has given me greater independence, and I am enjoying my new career. I also hope that my story can be used to encourage others with disabilities who are struggling to find employment.”

A Step Forward

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With drive and determination, John Almeda works to accomplish his goals; he is thriving at a job that he enjoys and is training towards his dream of competing in the Boston Marathon. John has completed half marathons, 20-mile races and most recently the 2017 California International Marathon (CIM). Despite an injury, he persevered and finished in 4 hours and 27 minutes!

These achievements have not come without challenges; John is on the Autism Spectrum (ASD) and is non-verbal. Around 30 percent of people diagnosed with ASD are considered “non-verbal” according to a study by Boston University; however, some non-verbal individuals can communicate with written or typed language. Furthermore, young adults with autism are less likely to be employed or to be enrolled in higher education than other young adults without autism.

Fortunately, after finishing his high school transition program in 2017, John was referred to PRIDE Industries’ Autism Employment Program. The program trains and places individuals with Autism in the Sacramento, CA region senior care services jobs at Eskaton (a nonprofit community-based senior care organization). Employees serve as companions and aides to residents of long-term care facilities and assist the nursing, dining hall and maintenance staff while receiving support from PRIDE Job Coaches. This is made possible through a collaboration between the California Conservation Corps and the PRIDE Industries Foundation.

John started his job at Eskaton in August 2017. To help him learn job tasks and overcome communication barriers, John was provided training and job support by his mother, Vanessa Bieker and a PRIDE Job Coach, Sandra Ogawa. Soon, he was working independently with little support, serving his customers with his enthusiasm and friendly smile. John is also able to independently take ridesharing services to work.

“John takes great pride in his work and has been given additional responsibilities as his skills have progressed,” says Rehabilitation Services Manager Michelle Anderson.

“With the money that he earns from his job, John is starting to support himself, including purchasing all the specialized clothing and shoes needed for running,” says Vanessa Bieker. “He enjoys his independence and the ability to socialize with his friends at work and is grateful for the opportunity.” We look forward to seeing John grow in his career and eventually reaching his Boston dream. Congratulations!

To learn more about John and his passion for running, watch this video.

http://www.abc10.com/mobile/video/news/local/sacramento-man-with-non-verbal-autism-inspires-many-through-passion-for-running/103-2819052

A New Start

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A job means so much more than a paycheck – it provides meaning, self-esteem and a chance to learn skills. MaryHelen Ceballos is an employee at PRIDE’s Ft. Bliss TX contract. With support and accommodations, she is thriving in her job.

“My life has not been easy due to my disabilities,” says MaryHelen. “I became hard-of-hearing when I was five years old. During school, I unexpectedly lost about half of my hearing in my left ear and was left only with a loud buzz in my right ear. Despite multiple MRI’s, CAT scans, blood work – my doctors had no explanation for my hearing loss. It was devastating.”

Despite her hearing loss, MaryHelen’s mother continued to enroll her in a non-deaf school. Unfortunately, this was not always a welcome environment. “My teachers did not understand how to help a hard of hearing child,” says MaryHelen. “Many doubted I would even graduate high school. Since I was different than the other children, I struggled to make friends.”

Through perseverance, MaryHelen overcame many challenges and excelled academically, participating in speech pathology classes to improve her communication skills. “My proudest moment was when I graduated high school with several scholarships to college,” says MaryHelen. However, the poor treatment that she had received discouraged her so much that MaryHelen declined her college acceptance and found work as a grocery store cashier.

Unfortunately, disability can strike at any moment – MaryHelen was injured while working and needed back surgery. “My employer refused to accommodate my disabilities,” says MaryHelen. “Despite the fact that my doctor had not yet cleared me for work and that I needed to use a walker and attend physical therapy, I was immediately terminated after a week of leave.”After my dismissal, I applied for job after job. No employer would hire me due to my back injury and the accommodations needed for me to hear others on the job. I just felt lost and alone.”

To get back on a career path, MaryHelen went back to college to get her certificate in sign language while searching for new employment. Fortunately, a friend suggested that she apply for a job at PRIDE Industries. “I found out that most of my hard of hearing and deaf friends worked there. I wanted to be part of PRIDE’s mission to create jobs for people with disabilities,” says MaryHelen. After interviewing twice, she was hired in July 2016.

“I was happy for the first time in several years since my back injury. Working for PRIDE has changed my life drastically. For the first time in my life, I am not ashamed to be hard-of-hearing, and I get the help I need at work. I feel like I have been given a second chance.”

At Ft. Bliss, MaryHelen works as a clerk for the Electrical, Fire Alarms and Environmental shops in support of PRIDE’s military customer. To help her succeed at her job, she was provided a telephone with a volume booster, as well as a lift desk and lumbar chair. ASL interpreters and job coaches are available to help with translation when needed.

“Since starting at PRIDE, MaryHelen has done very well in the Service Order Desk department. She is a quick learner, very organized and follows all processes precisely,” says Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Ronda Davenport.

“Everyone is friendly here, I love my job and the people I work with,” says MaryHelen. “We truly function as a team and take care of each other. I couldn’t ask for more in a job position.”

Building a Successful Career

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“Working at PRIDE has helped me accomplish my goals and brought me professional success.”

Julio Hinojosa is a young adult with a borderline intellectual disability that has earned a successful career with PRIDE Industries. Approximately 6.5 million people in the United States have an intellectual disability, which occurs when a person experiences limitation in cognitive functioning and problem-solving. These individuals have a harder time finding employment options and participate in the labor force at about half the rate of typically developing adults. However, given the right environment and support, people with intellectual disabilities can fulfill needed career positions and make excellent employees.

Julio graduated from a high school transition program that assisted students with disabilities to help find employment and learn independent life skills. As part of the program, he completed vocational training in electrical work, expressing interest in working in a technical field. With this preference, Julio was referred by the Department of Rehabilitative Services in 2011 to PRIDE Industries’ Ft. Bliss, TX facilities and maintenance contract – starting his career working as a Grounds Maintenance Laborer in the Roads & Grounds department.

Adjusting to a new trade was not always easy. Due to his disability, Julio struggled with problem-solving on the job and had difficulty using the correct writing to explain the work he performed on service orders. With help from his supervisor, coworkers and job coach, he learned how to write down his orders with accuracy and worked on maintaining concentration to finish assigned tasks on time.

“Julio is very shy,” says Rehabilitation Manager Shannon Bloxham. “He required a lot of guidance, but has learned by observation and hands-on training – improving his confidence and skills.”

Within this supportive environment, Julio continued to advance in his career. He was promoted to Maintenance Trades Helper in the Electrical department in 2014 and later to General Maintenance Worker in 2016. Furthering his expertise, he entered the Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) Apprenticeship program and is now a year shy of finishing the four-year program. With guidance and mentorship from his coworkers, Julio passed his State Journeyman Electrician’s exam in 2017 and was promoted to Electrician.

Working for PRIDE not only brought career success but also carried over in Julio’s personal life. He recently got married and purchased his first home. “I enjoy the hands-on-work of electrical work and perfecting my craft while working in the welcoming environment at PRIDE,” says Julio. “Julio is a very hard-working employee and has shown dedication and ambition to get to where he is today,” says Shannon Bloxham.

Let’s Get The Job Done!

Employees who work at the Forward Operating Base (FOB), a secured military area used for tactical operations, are the unseen but essential support facility staff that help support our nation’s soldiers. Glen Smith, a carpentry lead at PRIDE Industries’ Fort Polk Louisiana site, has been an important part of the team for seven years.

Glen joined PRIDE in 2010 as a maintenance trades helper after being referred from Louisiana Rehabilitation Services. Through hard work, he was quickly promoted to the position of general maintenance worker within a year. Glen has an incredible drive to satisfy PRIDE’s military customer, and is consistently heard saying “Let’s get the job done!” when given an assignment.

A job brings more than a paycheck; through his work, Glen found purpose by encouraging his coworkers, especially those newly starting in the carpentry trade. With his excellent record and leadership, he was promoted again to carpenter in 2012 and carpenter lead in 2013.

Challenges related to his disability has never dampened Glen’s enthusiasm, and he has always sought to work. Glen suffered a stroke as a child, causing medical defects to his foot and ankle and partial paralysis on his right side. Unfortunately, he also later experienced two aneurysms which have affected his memory, as well as a heart attack in 2016. Nevertheless, Glen has recovered and returned to his job with great eagerness.

As a team lead, Glen is passionate about helping members of his team, especially people with disabilities. “My goal is to help our employees learn marketable skills so they can move up in their careers,” says Glen. “I also want to teach them to overcome setbacks and be proud of their accomplishments.”

Glen is a devoted worker that is always dedicated to improving his leadership and carpentry skills. “We are privileged to have him on our team!” says Rehabilitation Manager Sonja Matthews. “PRIDE at Fort Polk greatly appreciates the extra steps he takes to ensure the safety and success of our employees.”

A Path to Success

Celebrating our achievements together

For the 20,000+ youths emancipating from foster care across the nation, many have no significant safety net or family to support them during their transition to young adulthood. As a result, they face great difficulty in gaining steady employment. Only 71% of youth in foster care will receive a high school diploma by age 19, and only 10% will attend college – lowering career prospects.

To bridge this gap, PRIDE Industries is proud to help young adults in, and emancipating from, the foster care system develop independence and self-sufficiency skills. PRIDE’s Youth Services and Internship Programs provide support and guidance to teens while connecting them to internships and jobs in the community. This success is made possible by generous donations to the PRIDE Industries Foundation.

With the determination to build a foundation of independence, Phoenix, a 16-year old young woman in foster care, enrolled in PRIDE’s Youth Services Program in December 2016. She has graciously shared her story with us.

Phoenix’s Story:

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The future is looking bright for Phoenix. Currently a senior in high school, she maintains a 3.5 GPA, is taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes and is excited about attending college next year in the fall. Phoenix has overcome many obstacles in her young life as a youth in foster care, including adjusting to a new city, school and family. With purpose and drive, she maintains a positive attitude and continues to thrive.

After Phoenix celebrated her 16th birthday, she soon realized she would be reaching a serious milestone. “In two years, I am going to be financially on my own,” says Phoenix. “I needed to get a job to start saving for my future.” However, getting that first job was more difficult than she had anticipated; lack of a car and reliable transportation, a phone and prior job experience all presented challenges. When Phoenix was first invited to participate in an interview, she also did not know how to navigate through difficult questions.

“Coming from foster care, I often felt uncomfortable when asked questions about my personal life and background,” says Phoenix. “I didn’t feel like I had the answers that they wanted.”

Fortunately, Phoenix’s foster mother referred her to PRIDE Industries’ Youth Services Program, which connected her with Job Developer Danielle Anderson. Together, they worked to create a resume and cover letter. Phoenix practiced interviewing with multiple PRIDE Job Developers and worked on her posture, speaking tone and eye contact. Practice soon made perfect, and Phoenix’s confidence increased.

Aside from the guidance provided by PRIDE’s staff, the Foundation was able to help Phoenix by funding some essential items needed for employment success, including a cell phone and new appropriate interview clothing that fit properly.

The job search was not an easy one. “Not hearing back after applying was very frustrating,” says Phoenix. “As a minor, my job options were already limited.” Despite the long process, Phoenix persistently applied and followed up with every opportunity that she could find. After a few months, she called to inquire about opportunities at a local restaurant and landed an interview. With the new skills that she had learned, Phoenix was hired on the spot as a store associate/cashier in June 2017.

“The Youth Services team was so proud of Phoenix for reaching her goal,” says Danielle. “The skills that she learned including customer service, teamwork and balancing multiple priorities, will help her in future career pursuits.” Having a job not only provided a paycheck, but it has also improved Phoenix’s self-confidence. “I was able to purchase my first smartphone and started saving for college,” says Phoenix. With the experience gained from her first position, Phoenix applied again to a department store and is now working as a cashier in an environment that she enjoys.

After she graduates from high school in spring 2018, Phoenix plans to study psychology and become a therapist, focusing on adolescents. “The guidance I received from Danielle and PRIDE’s Youth Services team will continue to help me when I attend college and build a career,” says Phoenix.

Top 10 of 2017!

Hello 2018 – Happy New Year!

Thank you for your support, we appreciate those who visit, share, and comment on the stories we share through this blog. As 2017 ends, we welcome 2018, and we look back at the posts our readers liked and shared the most throughout 2017.

Below you will find the top ten blog posts published by PRIDE in 2017, based on views, visits and shared stats.




10. Grit, Determination and Motivation





09. Veteran's Salute - David Daniel






08. A Positive Attitude






07. The Journey is Only the Beginning





pride industries employee at fort bliss going up ladder, HVAC tech


06. Macular Degeneration and the Workplace







05. Access to Advance in The Workplace






04. Veteran's Salute - Vernon Alcorn






03. Career After the Military







02. An Opportunity for Advancement






01. Worth the Effort



Again, thank you for your support throughout 2017 and we look forward to sharing many more profiles of employment success in 2018.

 

 

Veteran’s Salute – Vernon Alcorn

While working on an Idaho ranch as a young adult, Vernon Alcorn decided he wanted a larger purpose in life. In 1994, he and a friend both decided to apply to the Idaho National Guard.

“The training was mentally challenging,” said Vernon. “However, I adjusted well and was excited to make the military my career.” After two years in the National Guard, he enlisted in the US Army as part of the 46th Engineer Battalion.

Vernon served 21 years in the Army, advancing from a Private E1 to First Sergeant E8. In 1998, he was sent to his first overseas deployment to Nicaragua for a humanitarian mission. Fast forward to 2003 – Vernon was part of the first army troops sent over for Operation Iraqi Freedom. He later went again for combat operations in 2008 – 2009, as well as to South Korea in 2013 for an operations support position and to a final deployment in Afghanistan in 2014.

Serving in the military gave Vernon an opportunity to become a leader and an effective team builder. His dedication and bravery won him many awards, including two bronze stars. “My proudest moment serving was the day I became a First Sergeant in Afghanistan,” said Vernon. “With this position came the responsibility of commanding 294 soldiers – the height of my career.”

After returning home from Afghanistan, Vernon was on track to become a Sergeant Major but decided to retire in 2015 while stationed in Fort Polk, LA. “I enjoyed my time in the Army and the camaraderie I had with fellow soldiers. However, as my kids got older, I wanted to spend more time with my family.”

Starting a new career at any time presents challenges; this is often compounded when applying military skills to civilian positions. Like many veterans, Vernon struggled with making the career transition between soldier and civilian. “I applied to several jobs with very little luck. Most interviews went downhill after I had mentioned I was in the military. I went from a management position to an entry-level job to help support my family.”

Fortunately, Vernon kept searching for better opportunities and applied for a Quality Control Assistant Manager position at PRIDE Industries’ Fort Polk contract.

“From the start of my interview, I knew that this company was different. My prior work in the military was viewed as a positive aspect rather than something that I needed to hide,” said Vernon. He was hired in 2016 and shortly afterward was promoted to the Forward Operating Base/Range Facilities Manager.

“My job at PRIDE gives me purpose as a civilian,” says Vernon. “The Army never leaves you, and I enjoy being able to support the training on Fort Polk in a civilian capacity. It makes a positive impact on my life being able to work with people with disabilities and see their accomplishments. One of my children has a disability, and I know how important it is to have opportunities to enter meaningful careers with room for advancement.”

In his tenure at PRIDE, Vernon has become a valued team member. His advice for other veterans transitioning from the military is “Be prepared for change – I worked my way to the top and had to start all over again. Understand that a lot of companies won’t know what your job role is or your skills. Go in with an open mind.”

Veteran’s Salute – Kathryn Strawder

“After graduating high school, I had little experience but lots of ambition.” Kathryn (Kathy) Strawder enlisted in the U.S. Army in June 1995 to start a meaningful career with potential. “I enrolled as a Private, the lowest rank possible. The transition was rough; I felt like I made a huge mistake. However, the rigorous training was necessary to build us up.”

After Basic and Advanced Individual Training AIT training, Kathy joined the 17th Signal Battalion in Kitzingen, Germany. Throughout her career, she was stationed in Germany, Fort Hood, Korea, and Fort Bliss, including a deployment to Bosnia for a peacekeeping mission.

“In Bosnia, we dressed in full battle rattle (combat uniform). It was tough for my team, but we were always supportive and helped each other to get through the mission. I gratefully landed back in Germany after the deployment was over.”

With determination and drive, Kathy soon rose above the challenges. “When I was a young Specialist, I attended school to become a Non-Commissioned Officer. I received three awards, including the Commandant’s List (Honors Award), Iron Soldier, and Class A. After graduation, some female officers told me how proud they were of me for representing women in the force. I then went back to my unit and won Soldier of the Month.”

Kathy was promoted to Sergeant and enrolled in the Green to Gold Educational Program to attend St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, eventually rising to the rank of Captain. “I never forget that every contribution, no matter how small, contributed to the success of our team. The Army taught me important leadership skills including mentoring, resiliency, patience, and focus.”

“To this day, I’m proud to have served for over a decade in active duty and the Army Reserves. I wouldn’t trade it for anything!”

Kathy left the Army in 2009 to concentrate on her family. “The first six months after leaving were the most challenging – I felt like I had lost my identity. There were so many new things I had to get used to, including signing up for benefits and even picking out work clothes.”

“I still miss the Army, but I love the life that I have now. My advice to other veterans adjusting to civilian life is to have a plan, be open to new ideas and experiences and most importantly don’t give up.”

Kathy worked as a civilian within the military field until she was hired in 2014 at PRIDE Industries’ Fort Bliss  contract as Human Resources Director – helping manage employee relations for a small city of facilities experts that keep the base operational.

“It’s just a great opportunity to be part of this wonderful company,” says Kathy. “I can’t say enough how much I love my job. My son has Autism, and I can only imagine what the parents who started this company had in mind when they envisioned something better for their children. Just like the Army, I believe in PRIDE’s mission!”