Building a Rewarding Life

Bipolar disorder affects approximately 5.7 million adult Americans, or about 2.6% of the U.S. population age 18 and older every year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Cecilia “Cecy” Marquez, is a PRIDE Industries employee at our Fort Bliss contract site in Texas. Cecy was diagnosed with bipolar disorder as an adult. The late diagnosis and an unsupportive support system contributed to an unstable employment track record, low self-esteem and an overpowering feeling of unproductiveness. In 2010, Cecy’s disability was exacerbated due to a tragic car accident that resulted in a PTSD diagnosis.

Lack of accommodations at work and immense anxiety hindered Cecy’s employment tenures. Before joining PRIDE, she hid her disability, not disclosing it to employers or co-workers. When daily stressors would become too much to cope with, she would resign.

It is natural for a mood to change or anxiety level to rise when a stressful or difficult event occurs. However, individuals with bipolar disorder may experience mood swings that are so severe and overwhelming that they interfere with personal relationships, job responsibilities and daily functioning. Bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness. Fortunately, effective treatment plans are available which usually combine medication and therapy.

In January 2016, Cecy was hired as a Service Order Dispatcher with PRIDE. “My management team and counselor provide helpful resources that I find enlighten my workday,” says Cecy.

Cecy is an asset to her team and department, as she continues to overcome roadblocks while providing great customer service. “Cecy enjoys taking calls and receives them with a smile,” Corina E Huerta-Coronado, Cecy’s Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor at PRIDE, says. “She believes that smiles carry through the phone lines and provides great service to the soldiers, techs and other personnel.”

Life is much different now for Cecy; she is gainfully employed, has a wonderful support system both at home and at work, and feels proud to be contributing to the community and soldiers at Fort Bliss.

“I love my job and that includes being a part of the Fort Bliss community,” says Cecy. “When I enter onto the base, I feel a sense of pride.”

Having a job is about more than a paycheck; it improves confidence, self-esteem, creates greater self-sufficiency and aids in building a rewarding life. For Cecy, her job has contributed to a once in a lifetime experience. “Because I am employed, I had the privilege of traveling on a pilgrimage to Rome and the Holy Land – Israel, last fall,” Cecy shares.

For individuals like Cecy, a job means much more than income. She is contributing to the community while continuing to grow and live her life. We are proud to have Cecy on our team and are grateful she found a place with PRIDE Industries.

Inclusion Drives Innovation – NDEAM

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). The theme of this year’s month-long celebration is “Inclusion Drives Innovation.”

“Inclusion Drives Innovation,” is at the heart of PRIDE Industries’ mission – to create jobs for people with disabilities. In 1966, a group of parents met in the basement of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Auburn, California, determined to create employment opportunities for their adult children with disabilities.

For more than 50 years, PRIDE has had to be innovative to drive inclusion and grow our mission. With more than 5,600 people, including more than 3,300 people with disabilities and operating in 14 states and the nation’s capital. At PRIDE, we know that disability does not mean inability and that through employment, individuals with disabilities gain a sense of purpose, dignity, inclusion, and lead more self-sufficient lives.

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“For the first time, I did not have to hide my disability.” Meet Michael, click here.

 


“It really means a lot to have a job because I am on a regular schedule and making money with consistent hours.” Meet Sam, click here.

 

“My work gives meaning to my life.” Meet Richard, click here.

Through PRIDE’s innovative roots and by harnessing the ‘power of purpose’, people with disabilities gain opportunities to become contributing members of the community.

Grit, Determination and Motivation

“People have underestimated me my whole life,” Mario Garcia, a former PRIDE Industries employee says. “When I came to PRIDE, I was treated with respect.”

Since December 2015, Mario Garcia worked at PRIDE’s South Sacramento site, as a production associate. At an early age, Mario was diagnosed with an intellectual disability and received special education classes until graduating from high school.

Once at PRIDE Industries, Mario’s work ethic, dedication and positive attitude earned him a position within an off-site work group, a critical component of PRIDE’s Supported Employment Program.

Our Supported Employment Program partners with local businesses to meet their contracted workforce needs while creating community-based jobs for people with disabilities. PRIDE’s structured approach provides a support system that includes job trainers, case manager/counselors, and supervisors who understand each person’s disability to help these individuals overcome day-to-day challenges.

“My case manager did not think of me as a client with a disability,” Mario says. “He always believed in me and made me feel like I could do anything.”

Working in a small group providing support to Visions Paint Recycling in Sacramento, Mario’s efforts were recognized. Earlier this year, the company offered Mario a full-time position as a staff member.

At Visions, Mario’s daily tasks include unloading trailers, organizing shipping and receiving of products, sorting recycled paint and more. Mario has taken the skills he learned at PRIDE and applied them to his current job. His supervisors have noted that he is very respectful, dresses appropriately and is one of their hardest workers.

The road to full-time community inclusion has not been easy. Each morning is a challenge for Mario since he lacks a driver’s license and must depend on public transportation. Monday thru Friday, he catches the light rail at 5 am, connects to a regional transit bus, and then walks the remainder of the way. This long commute has not deterred Mario from maintaining almost perfect attendance.

With grit, determination and motivated by his 13-year-old son, Mario, a single father, provides for his family and overcomes challenges he may face due to his disability. His next goal is to become a supervisor at Visions.

Access to Advance in The Workplace

 

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”  ~~ Nelson Mandela

Jose “Rogelio” Ibanez is an employee at PRIDE Industries’ Fort Bliss contract. In the multicultural city of El Paso, TX, he can communicate in four different languages: English, American Sign Language (ASL), Spanish and Lengua Senas Mexicanas (LSM – or Mexican Sign Language). Not only has this ability helped him build a strong career in the carpentry shop at PRIDE, but it has also opened a new door into the education field.

Rogelio has had a remarkable journey to PRIDE. He was born deaf in Durango, Mexico to hearing parents. This difference created a language barrier early in his life, and Rogelio struggled with communication until he attended a deaf educational morning program to learn LSM. He also gradually acquired Spanish by learning to lip-read on his own. This was no easy accomplishment, as LSM differs from Spanish on verb inflections, structure and word order.

When he was a teenager, Rogelio moved to Texas with his family for a better life in the United States. Although he found a better economic environment, moving to a new country presented many new cultural and lingual challenges.

Rogelio landed a job in the construction industry and learned to weld, but had difficulty communicating with colleagues who did not know LSM and he struggled with finding steady employment. After becoming acquainted with local members of the deaf community, Rogelio gradually learned both ASL and English.

Seeking employment that would provide a steadier and more supportive environment for his disability, Rogelio was referred to PRIDE Industries by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) in 2011; he was then hired as a Grounds Maintenance Laborer (GML). In this position, he maintained Fort Bliss parks and streets – making them look their best for our nation’s soldiers. For his excellent work, he was promoted to a General Maintenance Worker (GMW) in 2015. As a GMW in the Between Occupancy Maintenance (BOM) department, Rogelio maintains soldier barracks between deployments.

“I am very fortunate to work for a company that hires and embraces people with disabilities like myself,” says Rogelio. “There needs to be more access and fewer barriers for people with disabilities to advance in the workplace.”

When communication help is needed, PRIDE’s job coaches at Fort Bliss are there to facilitate; they are also fluent in English, American Sign Language, Spanish and Mexican Sign Language. Rogelio’s smartphone is also configured with assistive technology (Purple Communications) that provides on-site translation. With a supportive network, Rogelio has thrived, and he has been recognized for his contributions to the base upkeep.

Aside from his attentiveness and dedication to his work, Rogelio is always willing to help translate and teach LSM to interpreters at Fort Bliss. Recently, an instructor from the El Paso Community College asked Rogelio to help teach an LSM workshop in April 2017. The class was a success; he had a full group of students ranging from advanced interpreters to Interpreter Training Program students. Rogelio now plans on becoming a Deaf Certified Interpreter (CDI) to improve his ability as a language mediator between LSM and ASL.

In addition to his teaching aspirations, Rogelio plans to earn his GED and attend a technical training school to become a certified welder and aspires to own a business in automotive body welding.

 

National Foster Care Month

May is National Foster Care Month, an opportunity to create awareness and encourage individuals to get involved in the lives of these youth – through mentorship, employment, volunteering and other ways.

Growing up always presents a unique set of challenges, especially when making the transition to adulthood. For the more than 400,000 youths in the U.S. foster care system, the following obstacles can seem insurmountable, such as getting that first job, a driver’s license and learning money management skills without a good support network.

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, connecting them to internships and jobs in the community while helping them overcome other obstacles to employment. This success is made possible by generous donations to PRIDE Industries Foundation.

Nellie’s Story:

Nellie is a participant in PRIDE Industries Youth Services and Internship Program. With PRIDE’s help, Nellie has successfully held a job, and has made many positive changes despite the great challenges she faced. She graciously shared her story with us.

Growing up in a dysfunctional family, Nellie lacked support and positive role models. This environment led her to engage in an unhealthy lifestyle; as a young teen, she got involved with gangs and drugs. To help turn her life around, she was admitted to a group home specializing in rehabilitation in the Sacramento, CA region, at the age of 14.

Despite her efforts to maintain sobriety and get her life back on track, Nellie’s attempts failed, twice. “Even though it was a different location, it was the same story,” says Nellie. “I got involved with the wrong crowd and drugs, again. Both times, I just wasn’t ready to change.”

“I never thought I would ever finish high school, let alone make it to age 16.”

Fortunately, Nellie connected with Koinonia Home for Teens, a highly structured group home that provides clinical treatment to chemically dependent youth ages 13-18. Often, Koinonia is the last hope for teens. The group home ended up being just what she needed; at age 15, Nellie made significant strides toward a brighter future. “Having the proper structure and discipline at Koinonia helped me change habits and start living a healthier and positive life,” says Nellie.

It was at Koinonia where Nellie connected with PRIDE Industries. PRIDE’s Youth Services job developers act as mentors to teens in the recovery program. Job developers help youth bridge skills from adolescence to adulthood.

Recovery happens in phases at Koinonia. During phase two, teens are allowed to seek community employment. Nellie’s commitment to her recovery and good standing in the program, gained her a recommendation to PRIDE’s Youth Internship program, in 2016.

The internship placement proved to be successful, Nellie currently works alongside colleagues with disabilities on PRIDE’s contract manufacturing and fulfillment division, packaging items for customers such as packing tea and toys. “I’m proud of my accomplishments at my job,” says Nellie. “This has taught me patience and teamwork, and I have learned skills needed for my future.” As a result of excellent work ethic, Nellie was able to extend the duration her internship.

The transformation has also been beneficial in other parts of Nellie’s life. Once far behind in school, she is now a high school junior who enjoys studying English and is set to graduate early. Nellie also credits sports with helping her stay on a positive track. Her favorites are football, soccer, and basketball – sports where she can apply the teamwork skills learned on the job.

“Nellie has made remarkable progress, and I am proud of how far she has come,” says Kenneth Avila, a Youth Services Job Developer. “She has learned a lot about how to communicate and positively connect with others.”

Nellie is a smart and strong young woman. Once she graduates from high school, she plans on exploring different career options, including the marketing field. For now, we are proud to have her as an intern at PRIDE and look forward to seeing her future accomplishments.

The Journey is Only the Beginning

“Without PRIDE, I would be at home playing video games.”

Getting your first job as a young adult is usually a challenge, especially with a lack of experience and a college degree. This essential task becomes even more daunting when you have a disability. Brandon Alexander is a young adult with both Autism Spectrum Disorder and A.D.H.D. After graduating high school, he encountered many obstacles while searching for his first job. Brandon had sought help but still did not find employment after several years. Fortunately, this changed when he was referred to PRIDE Industries’ Employment Services in July 2016.

“Brandon had been heavily discouraged, but I knew that we could help him,” says PRIDE Job Developer Twila Overton. “His disabilities presented challenges for interviewing for a job position, such as sitting still, and giving direct eye contact and clear communication.” Twila worked with Brandon to help him develop employment soft skills and practice interviewing.

Practice soon made perfect, and in October both of their efforts paid off; Brandon was hired at PRIDE Industries’ contract at Beale AFB, CA as a cafeteria attendant. “This has been a wonderful opportunity,” says Brandon “I’m so happy to have a job. PRIDE has given me a chance to participate in the community and to earn a paycheck.”

As a cafeteria worker, Brandon helps contribute to the well-being of the soldiers at Beale AFB. “It feels good to have a daily routine and to work in a team,” says Brandon. Besides his coworkers, Brandon is supported by his job coach and Twila, who are available to help with any questions or challenges on his job. This support ended up being just what Brandon needed, and he was promoted to full-time after his first three months. “Brandon is wonderful with customers and has made great progress in his position,” says Food Service Manager Evergene Avent.

A job is accompanied by many more milestones to an independent life. With the funds earned from his job, Brandon opened up his first savings account. He eventually aims to find a residence of his own with the money he’s saved. “Having this position has also improved my confidence and ability to advocate for myself,” says Brandon.

Brandon wants to continue to work for PRIDE and become a lead cafeteria worker at Beale. We are proud to support him in his first job and his career aspirations.

Career After The Military

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Richard H. Reddy served 20 years (1970-1990) in the United States Air Force as a Technical Sergeant. His exemplary service earned him a commendation medal, the bronze star in Vietnam and the good conduct medal. After retiring from the military, Richard searched for a job that would provide for his family.

While looking for a position, a friend referred him to PRIDE Industries. A simple referral ended up leading to a long-lasting career – Richard has been employed with PRIDE for more than 20 years. He started in food service at Beale AFB in Marysville, CA, and later transferred to Travis AFB in Fairfield, CA as a custodian, where he works today.

Though no longer in active duty, Richard passionately supports our military members by helping to keep the base in pristine condition.

pride-industries-_-richard“Working on base gives me a sense that I’m still at home. That’s important to me,” says Richard. As a PRIDE employee, he receives job skills development and accommodations, along with the support of his fellow PRIDE colleagues.

“My job has given me stability and has helped towards my goal of buying a home,” says Richard. “PRIDE has become my comfort zone after the military. My work gives meaning to my life.”

Focus on Abilities: Macular Degeneration and the Workplace

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

In the U.S., more than 7 million Americans are affected by a visual disability, including more than 600,000 in Texas. As a result of developing Macular Degeneration, Michael Prieto became one of these individuals.  The disease first caused vision loss in his right eye in 2003, following with the left in 2011.

Macular Degeneration is a condition that causes the center of the retina (the macula) to deteriorate. This area of the eye is responsible for the central vision needed for reading, driving, recognizing colors and other daily life activities. Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss, affecting more than 10 million Americans – more than cataracts and glaucoma combined. At present, there is no cure and is considered an incurable eye disease.

Because of his disability, Michael became unemployed. He did the best he could to handle his vision loss and continued to look for employment. Despite his efforts to continue life as a productive member of society, his eyesight increasingly became a concern and an obstacle to employment.

During interviews, Michael would do his best to hide and never mentioned his disability for fear of not being hired. Eventually, he landed a position with a heating and air conditioning company at Fort Bliss. In 2012, Michael was hired by PRIDE Industries as a general maintenance worker at PRIDE’s Fort Bliss contract in Texas where PRIDE provides base-wide facilities support to the Army installation.

“For the first time, I did not have to hide my disability,” says Michael. “I also received additional tools from PRIDE’s Assistive Technology resources.”

To help him succeed on the job, PRIDE provided Michael with an oversize cell phone, a Ruby Handheld Magnifier and access to other assistive devices as needed. As a general maintenance worker, Michael helps maintain HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) units throughout Fort Bliss. Michael along with his team, provide thermal comfort and acceptable indoor air quality for the more than 8,000 individuals on the base.

individual with visual disability using a Ruby MagnifierIt is the smallest things on the job that create obstacles for Michael, such as reading small text. Fortunately, the Ruby Magnifier allows Michael to amplify any tiny impediments. Learn more about PRIDE’s Assistive Tech. program, click here.

Since 1966, PRIDE has provided support services and opportunities for those most often excluded from employment: people with disabilities like Michael. “PRIDE has given me a second chance to continue my job skills due to my eyesight disability.”

 

To learn more about Macular Degeneration, view the video below:

An Opportunity for Advancement

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Alberto Hernandez has everything going for him, he is smart, motivated, a hard worker with an upbeat attitude and a remarkably talented artist. After moving to the U.S. when he was nine, Alberto completed high school and earned his bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from the University of Texas at El Paso. His college degree and incredible talent were not enough to overcome the career obstacles caused by his disability – Alberto was born deaf.

Most people do not know that being deaf makes writing difficult. English is a listening-based language that is constructed quite differently than visually based American Sign Language (ASL). People who cannot hear English – no matter how intelligent they are – have a hard time passing written tests without assistance. All graduate schools and professional certifications require applicants to pass complex written tests.

Unable to find a job that matched his skills and education, Alberto was referred to the PRIDE Industries’ newest program offering – PRIDE Ascend in El Paso, TX. PRIDE Ascend enables people with disabilities to gain technical skills and attain industry-based certifications to help meet the growing demand for skilled labor. To learn more about PRIDE Ascend, click here.

True to his nature, Alberto excelled, this time earning a National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) certificate in carpentry. After graduation, Alberto applied to a job at PRIDE’s Fort Bliss contract in Texas where PRIDE provides base-wide facilities support to the Army installation.

Alberto was hired as a maintenance trades helper in the carpentry shop at Fort Bliss. This new position allows Alberto to use his new certification while applying his creative talents in a job he truly enjoys. “Working at PRIDE has helped me mentally and physically,” says Alberto. “I am happy to have something positive to focus on.” Recently, Alberto earned a promotion to General Maintenance Worker.

Working at PRIDE has improved his confidence, self-esteem and has helped Alberto to be more self-sufficient. Most importantly, he is optimistic about the future. “I am excited about the experience I am gaining and the opportunity for advancement,” says Alberto. At PRIDE, he receives job skills development and accommodations, along with the support of his fellow PRIDE colleagues. “I look forward to the opportunity to showcase my skills and I feel motivated to come to work every day.”

Outside of work, Alberto is a talented artist with more than 25 years of experience, visit his online gallery, click here.

Individuals like Alberto remind us that we all have the ability to take control of our destiny despite the challenges we may face. “Never limit yourself to the expectations of others, always chase your own dreams,” says Alberto.

Worth The Effort

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It takes more than a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to keep someone like Sam Azevedo down. When Sam was referred to PRIDE Industries’ Modesto, Ca., office, it was clear that he was determined to get a job. He worked with his job coach and, instead of applying for one job every day as another motivated job seeker might do, Sam applied for five jobs a day and as many as 40 in a week.

Sam’s determination and his upbeat attitude made the PRIDE staff work even harder to help him find that job. But it was not easy. Sam is high-skilled, but he has a hard time with social cues and interactions, which made interviewing difficult. It took several months of diligent searching and interviewing before he landed a position as a courtesy clerk at Grocery Outlet.

The job has turned out to be worth the effort and wait. Grocery Outlet is a family-owned store that carries that sense of family to its employees and customers. After almost a year on the job, Sam still loves his work. “It really means a lot to have a job because I am on a regular schedule and making money with consistent hours,” says Sam.

pride-industries-sam02The store’s loyal following of regular customers all know Sam by name, and many make a point of saying “hello” when they come in to shop. Owners Roger and Heidi Custer also have high praise for Sam and his work ethic. “Sam is delightful and an important part of our family,” says Roger. “And he’s an asset to our staff.”

People like Sam touch our lives as do many of the employees of PRIDE Industries. It’s a privilege to know and share their journeys.

Keep up the great work Sam!